Sheffield United's chief executive Steve Bettis says Project Restart is about more than just helping footballers

Steve Bettis, Sheffield United’s chief executive, has criticised some of the commentary surrounding the Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’ by reminding that players are not the only people affected by the break in competition because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday, 15th May 2020, 2:03 pm
Updated Friday, 15th May 2020, 6:28 pm

Confirming the fixture suspension has been financially “challenging” for United - but insisting the club remains “in a good place” - Bettis insisted the sport has an obligation to return as soon as it is deemed safe to do so because of the effect a prolonged spell without matches is having on others working within the industry.

“We, as a club, employ something between six and seven hundred people,” Bettis said. “All of them rely on our club for their income. So we have a responsibility to get back as soon as it is safe to do so.

“We’re taking guidance and, when the experts say it’s right, then we’ll do it.”

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Although he admitted that the prospect of playing behind closed doors is “not ideal” - “Everyone knows what our fans bring” - Bettis revealed United’s players and coaching staff are unanimous in their desire to complete the season.

Chris Wilder’s side were seventh in the table with 10 games remaining when the lockdown was announced two months ago and Bettis added: “I’ve had a meeting with the coaching staff and the players this week. Everyone is so positive and fired-up to get started.

“I’ve been on a call with Chris and the medical team, making sure everyone is comfortable. There isn’t anyone who isn’t desperate not to get back and play football.”

England’s leading clubs have been warned they face huge losses if the campaign is not completed, with budgets already being squeezed because of the health situation.

Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder and chief executive Steve Bettis (R): Scott Merrylees

United recently placed a little over 200 staff on furlough but refused to make an application to the Government’s worker retention scheme, which underwrites 80 per cent of an individual’s salary up to £2,500.

“You run budgets at the start of the year and no one can be blamed for not putting this (Covid-19) in the cash flows for the season,” Bettis said. “It’s been well-publicised, the potential losses in the Premier League.

“I can say our board and owner (HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) have been extremely supportive, with the staff who were furloughed being paid a full wage and not using the government scheme.

“It’s a long road but we’re in a good place and hopeful of being able to push on next season.”

Bettis also described how United had taken advantage of the pause to complete work at their stadium.

“We’ve go a skeleton staff working at Bramall Lane, on retail, the online side,” he said. “We’ve also has the pitch relaid and returfed. We usually do that in the summer but we moved it forward as we weren’t sure how long the window was going to be. There’s still work to be done but we’re doing it safely and within the guidelines.”

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