Port Vale co-owner and Chair Carol Shanahan has written to Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston to raise her concerns over the ‘pausing’ of Government plans to allow supporters to return to football stadia
The club is grateful for the support of Stoke-on-Trent North MP Jonathan Gullis who has endorsed the letter on behalf of everyone at Port Vale FC.
Port Vale would like to once again thank fans for their incredible support in recent months.
The Chair’s letter to the Sports Minister reads as follows:
Dear Sports Minister,
I write to you as the Chair and co-owner of Port Vale FC and on behalf of everyone associated with the football club following the Government’s decision to ‘pause’ the return of supporters to sporting stadia.
I echo the sentiments and the fears expressed by EFL Chair Rick Parry who, while recognising the significant public health challenge facing the UK, rightly points out that the outlook for many football clubs – without supporters being able to attend matches – is extremely concerning.
As Mr Parry articulated, Port Vale – along with all EFL clubs – has been busy preparing for the return of supporters to our stadium for months – adhering to stringent protocols to keep them, and our staff, safe.
A huge amount of planning and resources have gone into this endeavour and for us to be told at the eleventh hour that fans will now not be able to return to Vale Park in October is a devastating blow to everyone involved with the club.
We understand fully that the situation with regard to Covid-19 restrictions is very nuanced and evolving but, like many supporters, are struggling to understand the logic which decrees that hundreds of people are able to sit together in an aeroplane for hours on end or eat and drink inside pubs and restaurants – but fans of football clubs are not allowed to be accommodated in the open air inside stadia declared safe by experts in socially-distanced bubbles while wearing face coverings.
It would certainly be helpful if the science behind this decision could be shared with the football community.
We were pleased to hear the Prime Minister say, when he announced the return of supporters to sporting stadia had been ‘paused’ that the Chancellor and Culture Secretary were “working urgently on what could be done to support” sports clubs.
We look forward to hearing what this support looks like as I cannot stress enough that the financial viability of many football clubs rests on this and the timeframe for the return of our supporters.
The support of Port Vale fans during the period when they have been unable to attend matches has been nothing short of incredible. They have bought kits and season tickets in their thousands but we, like all EFL clubs, are currently unable to give them the experience they have paid for and deserve.
While we continue to work extremely hard to engage with our supporters and add value for them during these difficult times the current situation with regard to fans is untenable.
Clubs like Port Vale, which directly and indirectly employ hundreds of people, have already taken a significant financial hit as a result of supporters being unable to attend matches for more than six months.
In his speech, the Prime Minister acknowledged that sports clubs are the “life and soul of our communities”. He is absolutely correct.
I am proud to say that Port Vale Football Club never shut down during lockdown. Despite being unable to stage football matches or put on hospitality, and with a significant proportion of our staff furloughed, Vale Park was completely transformed in order to help local families who were struggling through the pandemic.
As co-Chair of the Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area board and the founder and a trustee of local children’s charity The Hubb Foundation, I understand only too well how the pandemic and lockdown has adversely affected families across our city.
And so it was that between March and the end of August the Port Vale Community Hub oversaw the delivery of more than 150,000 meals to families across Stoke-on-Trent – thanks to the support of volunteers, local businesses and the significant contribution of the club and our staff.
Prescriptions were delivered to isolated and vulnerable and more than 3,000 activity packs were delivered to the homes of children across the city.
Port Vale is proud to have played its part for local communities – something it is still doing every day.
However, the situation for football clubs like ours is extremely challenging and I would implore you and your Ministerial colleagues to act quickly in support of the “life and soul of local communities”.
Co-owner and Chair
Port Vale Football Club