MLB supports ballpark workers as Chelsea opens hotel to NHS staff

Sports teams, organisations and venues are rallying round to support those in need during the coronavirus outbreak, with Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs committing $30m (£25.1m/€27.3m) to support ballpark staff.

The start of the 2020 MLB season has been pushed back by at least eight weeks following the outbreak and it remains to be seen how many games teams will play when the season does begin.

The MLB donation to ballpark employees affected by the delayed start to the season represents a $1m donation from each of the league’s 30 teams.

MLB commissioner Robert Manfred said: “Over the past 48 hours, I have been approached by representatives of all 30 clubs to help assist the thousands of ballpark employees affected by the delay in the start of the Major League Baseball season.

“Motivated by a desire to help some of the most valuable members of the baseball community, each club has committed $1m. The individual clubs will be announcing more details surrounding this support effort in their local communities.

“The timing of these announcements will vary because of the need to coordinate with state and local laws as well as collective bargaining obligations in an effort to maximise the benefits realised by each group of employees. I am proud that our clubs came together so quickly and uniformly to support these individuals who provide so much to the game we love.”

MLB and the MLB Players Association have also made a combined $1m commitment to assist those with difficulty accessing food. The money will be split evenly between Feeding America and Meals on Wheels America.

Elsewhere, Premier League football club

Elsewhere, Premier League football club Chelsea has announced today (Wednesday) that the Millennium Hotel at Stamford Bridge will be made available to NHS staff. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will cover the costs of providing the accommodation.

The initiative will run for two months and then reconsidered depending on the circumstances at the time. NHS staff that use the hotel will be those working in hospitals in the North-West London region but this may extend to hospitals in other districts.

Chelsea said the number of rooms used will depend on demand but potentially all of the rooms at the Millennium Hotel could be handed over. Chelsea said that Millennium Hotels and Resorts, which manages the hotel, supports the initiative and is assisting the club in providing the service.

Meanwhile in Ireland, Dublin’s Croke Park stadium is being used as a “drive-thru” coronavirus testing centre for locals. Ireland’s Health Service Executive has contacted the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), which owns the stadium, about utilising the venue to support its efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

Croke Park becomes the first temporary testing centre in North Dublin, with plans in the works to open further facilities.

Back to football, and League Two club Stevenage has launched an initiative to provide services to the over 70s and the at-risk community through a new careline.

The service will open next Monday and will provide non-medical advice and support, using club staff working from a single telephone number.

Stevenage will work with local foodbanks to encourage donations, while the club’s kitchens will be used to provide food for those in need. Local residents over 70 can also call a helpdesk to log every-day requirements, with the helpdesk to then liaise with club staff, volunteers or local services.

The Senior Kitchen will launch as a daily sandwich service to those at risk and/or 70 years old, with an initial 100 sandwiches per day to be delivered to people in need.

In Scotland

In Scotland, League Two football club Stenhousemuir has launched a similar community help initiative. The scheme will aim to support vulnerable members of the community with tasks such as going to the shops, picking up prescriptions or walking the dog.

The coronavirus outbreak has, however, hit English National League team Barnet hard. The club has been forced to put all staff on notice, including all first team coaching and backroom staff, academy staff and operational staff across all areas of the club.

Barnet owner Tony Kleanthous told the Guardian that there are around 60 employees being laid off by the club.

Barnet was relegated from League Two in 2018. Since then, the club said it has seen a general drop in crowd attendances of 50 per cent, with general costs having increased, resulting in operational losses of approximately £100,000 per month.

Although Barnet said it budgeted for this cost, its parachute funding will cease at the end of April and this, coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, has led to the club taking the “difficult decision” to put all staff on notice.

Image: The Rambling Man