Rotherham United Chairman Tony Stewart has spoken with www.themillers.co.uk recently to provide an update to supporters on a number of topics that we feel are of interest to our supporters, as we continue to navigate our way through the challenges presented to us by the Coronavirus pandemic.
In this instalment, Mr Stewart took the opportunity to discuss the ‘United Rotherham’ project and provide an update on how the football club plans to utilise the funds that were so generously donated by supporters following the curtailment of the 2019/20 campaign.
He then continued to talk about the innovative ways that supporters and local businesses have found to continue to offer their support to the club during these unprecedented times, whilst also giving his thoughts on the role the Millers have had in the community during the pandemic.
We have written the Chairman’s answers to our questions up in a Q&A style format below. Supporters can read part one of Mr Stewart’s interview, in which he discusses ‘Project Big Picture’, the club’s financial situation and continued work to ensure the AESSEAL New York Stadium is a safe environment for when fans return, HERE. With the second instalment provided below.
During the pandemic, as ever, the football club has been greatly involved with work in and around the community. Obviously, it has been important to follow the government guidelines of keeping your distance, wearing masks and other measures.
Amidst these difficult times we are currently living through, how crucial do you feel it is for the club to still be involved with work in the community, while also setting an example for people to follow during this period and beyond?
"I do feel like whilst people have had to remain apart, the pandemic has brought people together.
"We know that we all have a responsibility to ensure we follow guidelines. We have to look after ourselves as part of the greater good. We will continue to ensure that Rotherham United players and staff continue to wear masks appropriately. It is in the hands of us all to make the streets and public areas as safe as can be by doing all of this.”
Following the curtailment of the 2019/20 season, the football club gave supporters the opportunity to waiver refunds on their uncompleted individual match and season tickets, in order to help ease the cash burden on the club and to support those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic in our town, by donating refunds to the ‘United Rotherham’ project.
I understand that the reaction to the scheme was very positive, can you please provide an update on how things are progressing with this initiative?
"The generosity of the club’s supporters has been absolutely first class, really highlighting the connection and togetherness we have here.
"There were 2,188 season tickets holders who donated season ticket refunds from the curtailed home fixtures last season which is really quite something. Whilst the restrictions are still currently in place on having supporters at games, we have ring-fenced the financials from that to ensure that it is used for exactly the reason it was intended - to help fellow Millers in a variety of ways who have been hit, either emotionally or financially, during these tough last few months, even if that spills over into the 2021/2022 campaign.
"Whilst I know that we have a fantastic fan base, I was still amazed by the response to the United Rotherham project - particularly during these difficult times.
"It has been nothing short of incredible and fills me with immense pride how we make sure to look out for our own.
"I just want to thank everyone for what they have done for their club. There is no getting away from the fact that we are suffering from a reduced lack of income. As I have said before, we are putting on the show but without the audience and of course, with that, comes expense.
"Your contribution has certainly helped the club financially, I must stress that.
"We are incredibly proud that to date, we have managed to retain the jobs of everyone that works at the football club and that is in no small part down to the contribution of the supporters and commercial partners of the club. We never take that for granted.
"Money is tight. I believe we run the club as well as it can be run, but even with that said, it isn't cheap to do so.
"On top of that, I think we all share the desire to retain our place in the Championship.
"The investment we have made has been made with the intentions of ensuring we can do better in the areas in which we struggled last time at this level.
"Everyone has been tremendous and if I could thank everyone personally, believe me, I absolutely would.”
As we all know, as a result of the pandemic supporters have sadly not been able to attend games at the AESSEAL New York Stadium, or anywhere else for that matter, during the 2020/21 campaign to date. However, despite the current restrictions, supporters and local businesses have all found innovative ways to support the football club even in light of recent challenges.
The Red and White Shop have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to facilitate the click and collect service, as well as online orders during the lockdowns, and the Virtual Matchday Sponsorships have provided local businesses with a unique opportunity to back the football club.
How impressed have you been with the adaptability of the commercial team at the club, as well as the continued support from the fan base?
"It has been fantastic to see supporters contributing in every way they have. The Red and White Shop has remained busy throughout the pandemic and there is no doubt that supporters have tried to help out in any way possible.
"The Virtual Matchday Sponsorships have been brilliantly received as well and the backing from our corporate partners and sponsors has continued in spite of these tricky financial waters we are all looking to navigate."