Dundee gave John Nelms a way into the Scottish football industry.
But now the Dark Blues chief has found himself in the survival business.
The coronavirus pandemic – and resultant football shutdown – means it has been more than seven weeks since Dundee had any income from matches.
The combination of a smartly-purchased insurance policy and the Government’s furlough scheme leaves the club – unlike some others – in no immediate danger.
However, with no certainty as to when the 2020/21 season will begin, Nelms – Dundee’s American managing director – admits planning for the future is not without its challenges.
He told Courier Sport: “It is a new reality. Our business has changed from getting excited and ready for the next match to basically survival.
“We are still trying to entertain in whatever small way we can when people are stuck at home.
“Parts of our business are still running as normal but the reality is nothing is running as normal. We don’t know what’s going to happen.
“We are trying to prepare for when we come out of this but we don’t really know what is going to happen – we have nine different budget options for next year.
“We don’t know how many games we will have, or games might be compressed into playing all the time. We don’t know when we are going to start and that is the hard, frustrating part of it all.”
Asked how much the club is losing per month, Nelms replied: “This is one of these things where I won’t talk about specific numbers.
“Every club is going to be different – most clubs don’t have the insurance policies we have in place so they will be losing more than we will.
“The Government has really stepped in and helped out the mid-sized to lower-end clubs. At the bigger clubs with the salaries the players are on, although the furlough helps, it doesn’t help a huge amount.
“I would say Dundee Football Club and others around the size of our club are at a pucker point where it really helps us out and it helps out clubs below us.
“Above it won’t help out as much.
“We’re okay at the moment but we don’t know what is going to happen.”
Nelms says the club are still pushing on with their new stadium plans at Camperdown Park despite the economic slowdown during the pandemic and reiterated his and owner Tim Keyes’ long-term commitment to Dundee.
“We are committed and we want to do the best for Dundee Football Club that we can,” he said.
“We will always do that and we’re not going anywhere for the foreseeable future.”
He added: “The stadium is ticking along. The architects and the group are working on things but we’re not allowed to go out and do the updated studies we need to do.
“There is a lot of positioning in these deals and we’re doing those type of things, making sure everybody is geared up and ready to go.
“With the city dealing with the coronavirus the way they are and the way other staff are dealing with it, things have slowed down to a crawl. But we are doing things.
“As opposed to every day something happening, every week we’re getting updates of things happening.”
The shutdown also triggered crisis talks about the future of the game in this country – a controversial process that saw Nelms at the centre of a whirlwind when Dundee were left with the deciding vote on ending the lower league season.
Some Dundee fans were angry after a vague club statement, which was intended to show they had changed their vote from “no” to “yes” didn’t clearly state so.
The Dens managing director admits he can understand the frustrations of the club support.
He added: “Absolutely. I don’t ever really say which way I vote, I give principles of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
“The last day [before the ‘yes’ vote] we did a holding statement saying we’re not going to make a statement until we actually do something. Then the next statement came out because we actually did something and voted. But people didn’t realise that we actually voted, so we had to put out another statement.
“You know how I am – I don’t talk about players’ contracts, I don’t do things like that because I don’t think it’s appropriate at the time.
“We talked about it but it was a fast-moving situation. It probably didn’t seem that way, but I could see why the fans were concerned.
“Honestly, I’m not sure if the fans can see it or not but we are doing whatever we can do for the best of the football club, always. Not once in a while, not when it suits, always.
“We will make decisions that might not be popular among the fans in the short-term but overall in the long-term it will benefit the football club. That’s the way we will run the business and I don’t think we’ve done anything but that.
“We will try to take care of players no matter what, staff no matter what, if it comes to a point where we can’t take care of it, that will be very painful for us.
“At the moment, the way we have the business set up, with insurance and the way the Government is treating it, we are in a stable position and are able to do those things.
“We will always do what is right for the football club. I’ll take the heat for it and that comes with the territory.”
Despite not knowing when the next campaign will be, fans have already been putting money into the club by buying season tickets for 2020/21.
That, says Nelms, is an “amazing” gesture.
“You can’t thank people enough in a day and age like this. To see people step up and buy season tickets is amazing,” he added.
“It’s incredible to see the number of people who have bought them with a big unknown going forward.
“We will be playing football at some point in time, we just don’t know exactly when.
“The fact they have faith in the club and desperately want to see their team is helpful – and also helps us build the team based on the support we have.
“We know there are things that are way more important now than football but if people want to dig in their pockets then great, if not we’ll see you when we are all back together and have a good product on the park.”