Dane Murphy has assured Barnsley fans that the club will survive the ‘significant challenge’ of the coronavirus crisis and be ‘competitive in the Championship for a long time to come.’

The Reds chief executive couldn’t put an exact figure on the amount of money they had lost but said they will lose around £700,000 from games this season being played without fans, with more next season as fans may not be allowed to enter stadiums as well as doubts about TV and sponsorship deals. 

In a wide-ranging interview, he admitted the club was in ‘a completely new world’ and that ‘more clubs than people know are in serious trouble’ but insisted Barnsley are not one of them.  Murphy told the Chronicle: “There will be a club for the future.  We are in business, we are viable right now and we are in better shape than many of our competitors. We are continuing to work towards the future. The club has the vision of being consistently in the Championship and competitive for a long time to come.”

Asked if Barnsley’s owners, including billionaire Chien Lee, would invest personally in the club if it needed money to survive, Murphy told the Chronicle: “We haven’t gone down that avenue as a board. We need to navigate every other avenue to make sure we can make up that shortfall before we have ownership put in capital investment.  That is on me as CEO and other members of our board, to figure out how we can negate the need for the owners to put in their own personal cash at any point.”

Murphy added: “We are fine through June, and some clubs can’t say that even in the Championship. In July, things get a little bit closer to the edge but we are knocking down every door to make sure that those who can contribute through season tickets are able to so there is no toeing the edge of the cliff for the club.” 

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Barnsley’s owners Lee and Paul Conway last month bought Belgian top flight club KV Oostende while they already have an interest in Swiss outfit Thun and Conway was quoted in May saying they were keen to buy a Scottish club. Asked if those investments undermine requests for players and fans to support the club financially in an emergency situation, Murphy told the Chronicle: “I understand how some may have that view, especially from our supporter group. But, like many businessmen, our owners see their companies as standalone enterprises which should remain viable and be able to stand alone on their own two feet. If they see an opportunity for another venture that they can have success with later, I don’t think it’s their fault to look at it. If they were going to invest in an apparel company, people would have less issue than a new club within Europe. The owners see Barnsley as Barnsley, they made the initial investment and put their own personal capital into it for it to sustain on its own.”

At an EFL meeting this week, the clubs voted in favour of deciding the tables on a points-per-game basis if the season cannot be completed.  But, unlike with League One and League Two, there was no vote on ending the Championship season now which is due to restart a week tomorrow behind-closed-doors and be completed by July 22.  At Tuesday’s meeting, Barnsley asked for there to be no relegation if the season could not be completed, a proposal which was rejected. Murphy said: “Did we really think Barnsley would get this passed? “We tried but more than anything we wanted everyone to know our stance so that if, at some point down the road, we need to stand up and say why we feel wrongly done by, we can point back to that meeting.”

The Reds, led by co-chairman Conway, have said that they will take legal action should they be relegated and clubs who have allegedly breached financial fair play rules not receive points deductions this season. Murphy said: “We haven’t had assurances that that (deductions) will happen this season. But there are wheels in motion and rumours of penalties being handed down relatively soon.  Whether that happens or not, we will see. I do agree with Paul and I am sure our supporters would, that if clubs are charged in a season and not penalised in that season, there is a huge flaw in the system. We want clubs who abide by the rules not to be penalised because the process cannot be played out in an appropriate amount of time.”

The Reds have also requested a ‘parachute payment’ to cover the roughly £7million loss from being relegated to League One, citing that playing games behind-closed-doors is ‘unfair’ and lacks ‘sporting integrity’ because it would disadvantage teams due to a lack of home support. They also say that squads would become unbalanced as many players’ contracts expire on June 30. 

“It’s something we have put forward. This week’s meeting was for regulation change and we’ve been told that changing the parachute payment would be an article change that has to be discussed with the Premier League. We are following up, speaking to other clubs and the EFL to see if the Premier League would allow us to vote on it.  There are more than a few clubs in the Championship who have privately given us support and said it is a good idea.  “It helps make sure that clubs are in a better financial situation in an unbalanced season.”

Barnsley are currently seven points from safety at the bottom of the Championship with nine games remaining. On the financial impact of Covid-19 in general, Murphy said: “It has been significant. We were stopped in our tracks in March and we have had no revenue from home games, then we had to put the breaks on season tickets until recently.  Our sponsors have been holding back instalments because we haven’t put games on and we don’t know when next season will start. 

“You can try to plan and budget for the Championship or League One but we might have to throw it out the window. If the Sky deal changes with the Championship, what does solidarity (payments to the clubs) look like? If we don’t have fans for the first half of next season, where is the revenue coming from and how do we put games on? It’s a completely new world.

“No one expected this. It’s a once in a hundred year pandemic. I am taking it a day at a time. The health and safety of everyone at the club is most important and then we’re focusing on having a positive momentum going into these games. I have a tough time wrapping my head around what’s going on but I am trying to keep moving forward.”

WHAT BARNSLEY CEO DANE MURPHY SAID ABOUT...

Season ticket sales passing 1,000 in 1st week ‘The fans have been unbelievable. The first marker was how professional and enthusiastic our players and coaches have been, and the second marker that has given me confidence is our support base. Through thick and thin, Barnsley fans remain. If they dislike me or the ownership, they still support the club at Oakwell. That heartens me and should make everyone at the club want to work hard to improve the club. We have surpassed our expectations with season ticket sales.  ‘I am pleasantly surprised but I shouldn’t be because we know how good our fans are.’

When next season might start  ‘It would be very significant if we started any later than September. I have heard early September is the marker for 2020/21 but if it pushes beyond that it would be difficult not just for Barnsley. If a supporter was listening to the EFL calls this week, there would be a lot of concern. The Championship teams can afford to play on but many of those in League Two and a strong minority of League One teams have stated they won’t be able to continue if there isn’t revenue coming into the club from fans being in the stands.’

Fans returning to Oakwell ‘We will wait for government guidance and EFL guidance to let us know when fans will be allowed back. I have heard various things, the initial reports and fear factor was that it was going to be a year or six months (into next season). Now you are starting to hear it will be October or November.  ‘None of that is official but we are honing in on the important protocols to make sure everyone in stadia around the country can safely attend games. I think fans will slowly be brought back sooner than most think. ‘We are seeing plans for fans coming back in with social distancing measures in place and having areas for disabled fans. Nothing has been agreed on but I think it is possible. ‘We will keep people at a safe distance and wear masks and gloves then we will disinfect areas of the ground.’

Premier League help ‘The Premier League has a lot of money in reserve and part of the reason it is exciting is the pyramid below it with clubs having a chance to reach that top division. I am not trying to raise fear levels but does that remain if 20 or 30 clubs go out of business? I am not saying that will happen but I know the government has had discussions with the Premier League to put aside a bounty of money for the EFL which would definitely help.’

The transfer market ‘I think it will be impacted greatly. You won’t see as many moves with cash involved.  ‘The amount of moves and player values will both be contracted. Values you thought you would get on your players going out, will not be the same. ‘We will have to make adjustments but we won’t be forced into a corner by other cubs who make cheeky offers. We won’t allow it. ‘We know what markers need to be hit for us to sell. It could impact us in this window. But there won’t be a complete shift in the market we align ourselves with. The range of what we’re doing won’t be affected. We will be able to hold steady in our approach.’