Dundee United’s entire playing squad was today placed on furlough leave as Tannadice chiefs took steps designed to safeguard the club’s future amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Managing director Mal Brannigan outlined the Championship leaders’ Covid-19 measures in a statement just after lunchtime.
He also reflected on a surreal month for the Terrors which started with consecutive draws – against Ayr United and Partick Thistle – and finished with a 926-word message to supporters about the impact of a global pandemic, a national lockdown and why staying at home will save lives.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will pay employees 80 per cent of their salaries up to £2,500 a month.
In a bid to save costs, United are now down to a “skeleton staff” which includes manager Robbie Neilson and sporting director Tony Asghar.
Brannigan said: “The club has decided to utilise the Government’s Job Retention Scheme and place a large number of employees across all club departments on furlough leave.
“Dundee United, in some aspects, is not unlike any other business that is either utilising this scheme currently or is in the throes of implementing it, especially as it protects the employee’s role at the club during this period.
“I believe that this is the best option for Dundee United and it would be remiss of me to not make effective use of it, given the importance of protecting the long-term sustainability of the club.
“The scheme is a huge source of business relief, essentially on our cash flow, given that wages and salaries are our largest monthly outlay and an invaluable short-term lifeline to the club while we await the return of football and our usual match-day income streams.
“A skeleton staff remains at the club so that we can react to changes at the right time and with the right decision.”
Dundee United legend Maurice Malpas yesterday expressed sympathy with the club’s fans as they face the uncertainty caused by the football suspension.
The Tangerines are 14 points ahead of Inverness Caley Thistle, who have a game in hand, at the top of the Championship with eight matches remaining.
But a promotion party for the United faithful seems further away than ever before.
The coronavirus outbreak, and subsequent sporting shutdown across the world, has left domestic matters up in the air.
Last weekend it appeared title, promotion and relegation issues were in the hands of the SPFL after remarks made by Uefa vice president Michele Uva.
In his statement, United managing director Brannigan touched on the absence of a solution to the current issues facing Hampden bosses.
He said: “No one is clear yet on what will happen with the rest of the season and how it will conclude but I can assure you all that promotion back to the Premiership was our aim at the start of it and that will not change, however it is achieved.
“There has been too much invested into this season by the club and the fans to not see this ambition realised.
“It is a tough predicament that the SPFL and SFA Boards find themselves in at the moment, especially as there are no precedents to rely on.
“In my view, the direction coming from Fifa and Uefa will influence the majority of the leagues throughout Europe, including our own, as they try to re-arrange their footballing calendars and the participants for their next competitions.
“As we all enter the second week of a very necessary national lockdown in the UK, the club has continued working hard behind the scenes, having anticipated some of the events we are currently experiencing and reacting as positively to those that could not have been foreseen.
“A working group was assembled more than a month ago with the following three main objectives: to ensure continuity; to protect the future sustainability of the club; and to ensure, as reasonably practicable, that employees across all departments, including players, are affected as little as possible.
“To that end, we have identified and researched the various sources of assistance offered by the government including funding, grants and other schemes aimed at delivering economic stimulus.
“We have reviewed the club’s expense commitments without breaking any obligations with suppliers.
“We are looking at bringing forward new income initiatives ahead of plan, one of which the club hopes to unveil in the coming days and weeks.
“One of our recent actions was to temporarily close the doors to Tannadice at the beginning of last week, as we had already allowed and prepared the majority of our staff to work from home if work needed to be done.
“The subsequent downturn in business and the further introduction of government measures have made us amend our plans again.”
Brannigan – appointed in January 2019 by the club’s US-based owner Mark Ogren – also acknowledged it was “a very worrying time” for United’s fans and staff.
He said: “Everyone attached to Dundee United hopes you and your loved ones are staying safe and strong.
“The month has certainly gone in a different direction to the way I envisaged it before the impact of the virus hit home.”
He added: “I urge all Arabs, take heed of the Government warnings, protect your local communities and stay at home unless you are an essential worker.
“If we all follow the advice and work together, we will hopefully all return to some degree of normality in the near future.
“On a final note, and until we see you all back at Tannadice cheering the players on: Stay Home, Save Lives, Protect the NHS.”