Across all parts of the business, the global pandemic substantially disrupted our plans for the 2019-20 season.

But the combination of our existing plans for major incident responses, together with the global network based around Manchester City’s sister clubs in City Football Group (CFG), meant that we were able to move fast and effectively to ensure the best possible support for our people and our organisation.

In terms of our operational response, we were first alerted to news of the virus by our colleagues in China, which enabled us to start planning early. Utilising the expertise of colleagues who have experience of working within emergency services operations, together with our existing framework for managing a significant incident, we immediately set up a response plan to deal with all aspects of the disruption caused by COVID-19, and daily meetings were held by senior management to ensure we stayed abreast of changing conditions.

Protecting our staff was a key principle underlying our plans. We made the decision very early on that no staff would be furloughed under the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. We also set up a team focused on staff communications and support, covering everything from team meetings to mental health advice and healthy office set ups. We redeployed staff where possible and offered those who were interested opportunities to volunteer.

With the impact of the pandemic being felt across the global economy, we worked closely with our partners to find flexible and creative ways both to support the partnerships and serve our fans at a time when no football was being played, and then later when matches resumed without fans. Cisco, who joined as partners in October 2019, were perfectly positioned to provide their world-leading video conference software for use in varying scenarios – from games at the Etihad Stadium to Official Supporter Club watch parties. TECNO supported Cityzens Giving programmes in India to help low-income families through the crisis and Midea created an ‘At Home Challenge’ to entertain fans during periods of lockdown, whilst PUMA offered free UK delivery.

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COVID-19 had a significant impact on our own financial performance this year. Revenues were lost or deferred to the 2020-21 season, but normal running costs stayed basically the same.

Across all competitions, only 20 games were played in front of fans at our stadium. When football resumed, all Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League games were played behind closed doors, the majority in July and August.

All of this affected the Club’s revenues in numerous ways.

Ticket and all stadium related sales were interrupted and Seasoncards refunded. Broadcasting revenues were reduced following rebates given by the Premier League to broadcasters and, importantly, all the revenues related to the games played in July and August correspond to the 2019-20 season but will only show in the 2020-21 accounts.

Additionally, player trading activities that were planned for the 2019-20 season were executed after June 30th and will show in the 2020-21 accounts.

At the same time, while revenues were lost or postponed, the Club continued to incur the full monthly running costs across the whole year, after taking the decision not to furlough staff. Further costs directly attributable to COVID-19 increased following additional support for staff and community donations.

As a result, our revenues for this financial year fell by 11% to £478.4m, with a net loss of £126.0m.

In a year in which our revenue streams were adversely affected by COVID-19, we still generated an increase in commercial activities, of 9%, as a result of the new partnership deal with PUMA which began in July 2019. In particular, retail was a positive commercial story throughout the season – the PUMA announcement led to our biggest ever kit launches and record-breaking sales, and demand for the new kits continued even as the season was interrupted. Overall, we saw a 20% increase in e-commerce, despite fewer matchdays and opportunities for engagement, as a result of a speedy pivot to adapt to the changing environment, producing exercise-at-home and work-at-home ranges and ideas to entertain children.

The annual Premier League survey, conducted in the early part of the season (before the pandemic), shows that our fans continue to feel highly positive towards Manchester City. 99% reported positive feelings towards the Club, 98% feel that we have a long-term vision and 93% say that we maintain the ethos and traditions of the Club.

CITY PEOPLE

When the country went into lockdown, almost overnight, we switched from having hundreds of people working, eating and socialising at the Etihad Campus to asking everyone to work at home.

From the policies to the processes that govern everyone’s day-to-day lives, every single part of the organisation required attention to make sure we were supporting people to do their jobs and to feel safe and cared for.

Protecting and supporting our people was the overarching priority in our response. Understanding the varying care roles that many staff were suddenly undertaking, we waived the unpaid element of the dependant leave policy and took the decision very early on not to furlough any staff. Where possible, people were redeployed to other parts of the business, with staff transferred to 35 different projects – from Hospitality Sales Reps joining Operations Development to Tour Guides joining Reception Teams.

Regular, quality communications were a vital part of our response. From the start, we endeavoured to keep our people as well-informed as possible. Our Leadership Team provided regular updates through virtual briefings and Q+A sessions, and we quickly rolled out new ways to connect with our teams, including podcasts and virtual coffee mornings. A dedicated COVID-19 hub on our staff intranet was regularly updated with FAQs, guides and advice.

Being able to measure how people were feeling was important. Our staff consultation forum, In The City, made up of 15 volunteer representatives, was consulted every week, and we created a dedicated COVID-19 inbox which received more than 150 specific requests.

After over 450 responses to our staff ‘pulse’ survey, we responded to the feedback by increasing our Learning and Development opportunities to provide weekly sessions for all staff and launching ‘City Talks Zipped’ to bring inspiration from world-class speakers.

Cognisant of the rise in mental health pressures brought about by the pandemic, we shared weekly information on how people can access support for their mental health, including counselling services, advice for those dealing with bereavement, specific workshops for managers, mindfulness sessions and more. Our existing internal mental health working group (BeWell), made up of volunteers from around the business, launched a dedicated space on the intranet to house all these key resources. Any staff member who reached out directly to say they were suffering with their mental health was given a one-to-one session with the HR Team and a personalised action plan put in place to support them.

We also provided new ways for our people to stay physically active, running virtual fitness classes from bootcamp and yoga to dance fitness and football skills. And we encouraged people to stay connected with one another through social events such as quiz nights, bingo and talent competitions led by our highly entertaining Stadium Tour Guides.

In August, once the country had come out of lockdown, we opened our offices in Manchester to those that wanted to return. Again, the well-being of our people was at the forefront of our approach, with return being optional and voluntary. Each member of every team had one-to-one sessions with their line manager, and members of the HR team were ‘on call’ and at the office each day to deal with any mental health pressures, anxieties or concerns. ‘Best practice’ protocols were applied to ensure adherence with COVID-19 Secure workplace guidance, including a one-way system, hand sanitiser stations, temperature screening and extra cleaning, plus a desk-booking app to help the facilities team prepare each day.

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BLUE MOON ACAPELLA

CITYZENS GIVING INDIA

BLUE MOON ACAPELLA

Together with our partner Cisco, the worldwide leader in virtual collaboration technology, we helped to create new ways for fans to connect with the team even though they couldn’t attend matches in person.

So, to celebrate the final game of the Premier League season, we created a fan-led rendition of the team anthem Blue Moon, which was recorded and facilitated via Cisco Webex.

This moving two-minute film served as a show of support from fans to players, and features City fans and celebrities Jason Manford and Ricky Hatton, women’s team stars Steph Houghton and Jill Scott, and men’s Club legends Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott. The campaign also included two 30-second promotional spots, one in the build-up to the Champions League match against Real Madrid and the other showing Manchester City stars as they react to the heartfelt messages directly from the fans.

CITYZENS GIVING INDIA

With COVID-19 hitting India especially hard, TECNO decided to divert their in-market activation assets to support local communities in the country.

The phone-based communication and awareness programme was set up in Kolkata to provide vital messaging and support to over 10,000 low-income families during the COVID-19 crisis and in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan.

In total, 30 City Football Group Young Leaders were trained in the programme, 13,800 families were supported and TECNO donated mobile phones to further support the initiative.