Over the last few weeks, the most commonly used statement that we hear when we switch on our television sets is " We live in unprecedented times". Like me, I'm sure that you are fed up with the repetition but it is undoubtedly true. This virus has affected everything and everybody. Words such as, lock-down, isolation, social distancing and furloughing become part of our everyday language. Vocabulary that we never envisaged having to use as we embarked on an eagerly anticipated, new shinty season. However, whilst the lack of matches is regrettable, the health of everyone is of paramount importance and I congratulate my colleagues at the Camanachd Association for their early recognition of the severity of this outbreak and for their prompt action.
I also thank everyone involved in our sport for their understanding and for their support during this shutdown. The disappointment of not being able to play or watch shinty is felt by everyone devoted to the game.
The question we now all want an answer to is "When will this shutdown be lifted and when can we start playing again". Unfortunately, there is no timescale on this at the moment and so our ability to make plans are very limited. Our Competitions Committee have studied many options but until we know the number of weeks available (assuming there are any) all scenarios could be of little use. Please be assured that we will endeavour to make the best use of time if there is time available and we would welcome input from Clubs in order to gauge opinion on this matter.
The last few weeks have been very eventful and concerning for those of us charged with the administration of shinty and of the Association ,the Governing Body of our sport. In the first instance the safety of the staff was our primary concern and so the decision was taken that everyone should work from home. Contact was made via telephone or conference facilities. This has worked well and all are safely isolated. As the financial wellbeing of the Association is dependent on many sources of income you can imagine the concern brought about by the uncertainty of what may be ahead of us. In order to run our Association in a professional way and to provide the services that Clubs deserve in this day and age takes a great amount of money. Until this situation arose the finances of the Association were in good shape however the obvious loss of income from not having shinty played is a major concern. To this end we have secured savings wherever possible but unfortunately, we have also had to furlough some staff. This is regrettable but necessary as by doing so there is a financial recovery scheme in force from Government. I must thank our CEO, Derek, for his exhaustive research and numerous discussions with Lawyers, HR advisers, Sportscotland personnel and others in order to ensure that we complied with all guidelines. Hard times necessitate hard decisions, unfortunately, but the furloughed staff are still very much part of the team and are very much valued. Hopefully we can get them back to work as soon as possible. Meanwhile the remaining members of staff have risen to the challenge. They are available to support if help is needed and they will look at innovative ways in which to help the development of Clubs and individuals during the coming months.
Information to Clubs regarding such things as Insurances, Competition fees, Club Memberships and players and Committee membership fees will be advised as soon as we have a clarity on our recovery plan. In the interim period regional development officers are contacting local clubs to understand how we can support and this will be followed by online teleconferences for club and association presidents in the first instance followed by a coach’s teleconference and then a referee/ official’s teleconference.
In my last year as President I had hoped to have visited as many Clubs across the country as possible, enjoyed the occasional social event and leave the Association in good shape for those who follow on. For the meantime these plans are on hold. In closing I take heart from the fact that the Association and the game is in a good place and will come through this. Shinty communities are made up from strong, supportive and robust characters. We have a dedicated Board of Directors and Staff and loyal, much valued sponsors and financial backers. The most important thing for all of us right now is to keep safe, obey the instructions from Government and hope that we can get back to normal when it is safe to do so.
Kind Regards to everyone in Shinty,
Keith Loades President