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Manchester United join sports teams assisting stadium staff

English Premier League football club Manchester United is among a growing number of sports teams to make moves to ensure matchday staff do not suffer financially amid COVID-19.

United has confirmed that it will pay all its matchday and non-matchday casual workers at Old Trafford stadium should Premier League games be cancelled or played behind closed doors for the remainder of this season. The announcement came after it was revealed yesterday (Thursday) that professional football in England would be further postponed until at least April 30 due to the outbreak.

United said the goodwill gesture reflects the club’s desire to reduce the financial uncertainty facing its casual workforce, adding it is in recognition of the “crucial role” they play in delivering services to supporters.

The goodwill payment will be made to all matchday and non-matchday casual workers who have worked for the club in the past three months. The BBC reports this covers more than 3,000 staff and amounts to £1m (€1.1m/$1.18m).

Ed Woodward, Manchester United executive vice-chairman, said: “We rely on our outstanding staff to deliver an exceptional service and experience to fans at Old Trafford. We understand that these are unprecedented circumstances and want to give them security whatever may happen regarding our remaining fixtures this season. We look forward to welcoming back all our supporters – and our colleagues – to Old Trafford as soon as possible.”

This approach has been echoed by major league sport in the US. In basketball league the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves, led by owner Glen Taylor, has pledged to donate up to $1m (£849,000/€931,000) in a relief fund for the part-time gameday staff at Target Center. “Our staff who work so hard to make the Target Center experience memorable for fans are the backbone of what we do,” said Taylor.

The Miami Heat and AmericanAirlines Arena have announced that they will be providing disaster relief assistance to team and arena part-time employees as a result of the pandemic. Additionally, the team and arena will provide funds to their partners including food and beverage concessionaire (Levy Restaurants), security (Contemporary Services Corporation), and housekeeping (Pritchard Sports and Entertainment) to assist workers.

The Micky & Madeleine Arison Family Foundation will also donate an additional $1m to the Miami Heat Charitable Fund at the Miami Foundation to establish an initiative designed specifically for employees and/or other community needs as they arise in the coming months.

“We have approximately 1,000 part-timers and they are the backbone of our business,” said Eric Woolworth, president of the Heat Group’s business operations. “Night in and night out, every single one of these employees works tirelessly to provide our guests and our community with the best experience in sports and entertainment. They deserve our help as we all navigate this unpredictable situation together.”

Owner Jody Allen and the Portland Trail Blazers are committing more than $1.4m towards COVID-19 relief efforts. This includes paying part-time Rose Quarter employees for nine postponed Trail Blazers games. The majority of NBA teams have detailed similar schemes, on differing levels, with the Sacramento Bee newspaper reporting the Kings are partnering with Legends Hospitality, ABM, Fanatics and SAMMCO to provide compensation to their employees who work at Golden 1 Center through the end of March. This will cover around 1,400 employees.

In ice hockey league the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley announced organisation-wide efforts to assist part-time game day employees and arena hourly on-call staff who were previously scheduled to work the remaining home games at T-Mobile Arena through the end of the NHL’s regular season.

The Golden Knights, players and Vegas Golden Knights Foundation will combine resources and planning to support those employees who may miss shifts due to the pause in the NHL season and have pledged a minimum of $500,000 to these efforts. Leading the player contributions is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury , who has committed to donating $100,000.

Foley said: “Make no mistake, these are uncertain and challenging times, especially here in the great city of Las Vegas. But we are all in this together and we will all persevere together. We hope these contributions can have a positive impact on many of the staff and their families who are affected. We want to do our part.”

The Boston Herald newspaper reports that to date, the Bruins and their TD Garden arena are the only NHL team and/or building ownership group yet to publicly announce any financial assurance or assistance to its part-time arena staff.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs committed $30m to support ballpark staff.