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Mark Ashton hails staff and players

Mark Ashton hailed his staff and players as "a credit to the football club" for their financial sacrifices during these difficult times.

The Bristol City Chief Executive spoke to Robins TV to explain more about the temporary decisions to defer a percentage of player wages, reduce all non-playing staff wages and why some staff have been placed on the government's job retention scheme (furloughing).

As all clubs are going through, decisions have to be made to balance the already felt and foreseeable losses due to the suspension of football amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking of those decisions, Ashton said  "they haven’t been taken lightly." He continued: "They were taken in conjunction with the board, Steve (Lansdown) and the Lansdown family. We have moved swiftly and effectively to protect the club’s long-term future. Other areas of the [Bristol Sport] group have taken similar actions and that is key, not only to get through this challenging period, but so we come out of it strongly and in as best a position as we possibly can. We have made difficult decisions, but I think we have made the right decisions."

As Ashton explains, there are a number of factors which mean a lack of income and so it was a case of managing those financial losses to ensure the club can get through the challenging period and be on a stable footing once football can return. And he is grateful for everyone's efforts in committing to the cause, be that playing and non-playing staff from the Academy through to the first team.

He said: "We have looked at our finances ad we’ve had to make some judgement calls on when the end of the season will be. We have tried to work through what we believe our financial losses will be in that time. We are not playing in front of crowds, we don’t have the retail, matchday, commercial, or hospitality revenues that we anticipated. We have had to look at what those losses would look like and therefore we made the decision that everyone across the football club would be asked to contribute to help us cover those losses. It’s important we get through this period and come out of it very strongly.

"Firstly, before I come on to the players I want to talk about the staff. They have been absolutely first class. They have taken cuts in their salary for a period of time, be that myself or Lee Johnson or any member of the staff at the club or the Academy, they have been financially affected by this. Not one person complained, they all stepped forward, everyone supported and understood the position we had taken and I thank them immensely for that. They are a credit to this football club.

"Regarding the players, myself and Lee contacted and spoke with every player, which was interesting to see their home environments. Again, they were fantastic.

"I read in the press that I have had discussions with players and their representatives. I haven’t spoken to one player’s representatives in relation to this. The conversations are between ourselves and the players and as far as I’m concerned they are family. Every player stepped forward and supported what we asked them to do without question. I thank the players and staff for how they dealt and approached that and for the swiftness in which they acted. They are a credit to Bristol City Football Club."

The club's CEO continues to juggle a busy schedule with both club matters and the EFL, of which he is a board director. He remains in constant contact with Head Coach Lee Johnson and his own staff, as well the players all via video link.

He continued: "I’ve spoken to Lee everyday. He’s frustrated as he doesn’t do being locked up well! He wants to get back out there to work.

"I’ve spoken to all the players about the salary deferrals they’ve taken and it’s nice to see them. I’ve seen some interesting haircuts, attire and home lives. They are all good, once you get past the first five minutes of banter and fun and games we get into some serious discussions. They are still very focused because let’s be clear, there are still nine games to go and were in a promotion hunt. They remain focused and want to get back to training, get back to games and it was really good to be in contact with them.

"We have some first-class people here and I genuinely mean that. This club owes players and staff a debt of gratitude in this period. It’s difficult for everyone for so many reasons: We’ve had sad news about players’ and staff family members who have been health-wise affected, and some have passed on due to this awful virus. But we have seen people come together to support each other and the community which is testament to the quality people we have at Bristol City. I thank them all and they are an absolute credit to us," Ashton said.

A ball has not been kicked since Saturday, March 7th, the 1-1 draw at home to Fulham when City marked their 125th anniversary, while questions continue to be asked what the future holds for the game and of the 2019/20 season specifically.

"It certainly rekindles your passion," Ashton told Robins TV, reflecting on the period of no football. "We’re frustrated, we want to be out and about and see people. This is not just a job, it’s a way of life: we miss our friends, our colleagues, the game and the rush, the endorphins and energy that game day brings. We want to see it back as quickly as we can and I’m working with the EFL and all governing bodies on a daily basis.

"We intend, we want and we wish to see this season conclude competitively and with integrity on the pitch. As soon as that is safe to do so, be that with or without crowds in the short term, we will do that but we will work with the government, DCMS (Department for Culture, Media & Sport) and all the relevant bodies to make sure it is safe for supporters, staff and players to return and return as quickly as we can because we miss our game."

Watch: Mark Ashton speaks on COVID-19 update

 

Ashton was speaking to Robins TV following the latest club statement regarding player and staff wages as a result of COVID-19.

Click to read the statement

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