Norwich City Regional Partner Anglian Chemicals have been working hard with the club and the Community Sports Foundation in response to COVID-19.
Last week, Club Ambassador Darren Huckerby sat down with Anglian Chemicals Managing Director Tom Burkill to understand the partnership, the work they've been doing, and more.
To watch the full Q+A:
Or to read the full interview:
DH: Can you give us a bit of an insight into the work Anglian Chemicals does?
TB: There are three main parts to our business, all three of which affect the football club and the wider Norfolk region. Firstly, we’re a janitorial distribution business, so anything from toilet roll, hand towels, soaps, mops, buckets, gloves – anything that a janitor would need we buy in and distribute out.
Secondly, we manufacture chemicals, so anything that is liquid-based is blended on-site to the formulations developed by our chemists here in Fakenham in Norfolk. We do washing up liquid, sanitisers, shower gels, floor polish and so on.
Thirdly, we go around removing sanitary waste from offices and buildings and dispose of it in the correct manner. It’s quite a diverse business. 85 percent of what we manufacture here is for other janitorial distributers, so there are brands you buy in various retail outlets that are made here without you knowing.
DH: You’ve had a partnership with Norwich City for a little while now. Can you tell us a bit about that?
TB: Anglian Chemicals, in various different guises, has been in Fakenham for 30 years. The previous owners were staunch supporters of the club and had season tickets in a box for a number of years before they came to retirement age.
When I joined the business, we were still a key supplier for the club and that relationship has been around for more than three decades now. For 20 of those years, we’ve supported the club with a box and been a part of matchdays.
When I took over as MD and bought the business in 2013, the question I got asked all the time was ‘when will you get a box again at Norwich?’ The customers just love that day out at what is a fantastic family-based club. They enjoy the hospitality and the action of supporting their local team.
In 2013, we became club partners, meaning we had a box and agreed to sponsor the cleaning team, so you’ll see them wearing uniform with Anglian Chemicals on which is fantastic because people get to see a local link between the two businesses
DH: Many businesses have been suffering in the last two or three months during the pandemic. What’s it been like for your company?
TB: I’m very grateful to be in a business that has been allowed to continue and prosper, whereas a lot of people haven’t had that benefit. I haven’t felt the same pressure that 95 percent of the country have felt in terms of having to de-rail and stop their normal everyday lives.
From day one, we were contacted by the government and told that we should stay open because we’re key and on the front line. We needed to diversify our manufacturing capabilities to focus solely on sanitisers, soaps and disinfectants, which is what we’ve done.
We’ve been very lucky to carry on going to work every day as normal. It’s been really interesting how our staff have reacted to it. It was almost like a wartime effort. Everyone of our 55 employees pulled together and rolled their sleeves up.
We had to change shifts and working patterns so that we could social distance, so we adapted as a business to allow us to keep manufacturing and keep providing the NHS with sanitiser and soap in what was, frankly, back in March, uncontrollable.
There weren’t enough hours in the day to meet the capacity. We were getting hospitals from all over the UK and across Europe contacting us for supplies because they were literally running out on a daily basis.
It was difficult, but the pride and morale growth from it has been really positive for everyone in the business. We’ve filled roughly ten and a half million bottles of hand sanitiser, so that’s a lot of potential life-saving cleaning.
We had to stop supplying non-essential industries to make sure supplies were going to the places that needed them like care homes, GPs, hospitals, supermarkets – their vital elements of what we need to keep the country going so we made sure they got the quantities they needed.
DH: So how has the company been helping in the community as well as with the NHS?
TB: A lot of companies have been sending out care packages. A number of our distributors and customers, including Norwich City and the Community Sports Foundation, have built care packages.
We provided 2,000 hand soap bottles, 3,000 toilet rolls often at less than cost and in quick order as a contribution to those care packages.
Norwich City have been at the forefront of the period poverty movement, so along with them we put 200 vending machines for female sanitary products around the Lotus Training Centre, Carrow Road and The Nest.
We’ve generally been supporting charities and giving help where it’s needed. That’s at the forefront of our business as well as Norwich City’s. We’re proud to be aligned with the phenomenal work you do.
We’ve been inundated with phone calls from people saying how grateful they were for the care packages. They couldn’t physically keep themselves safe because they couldn’t buy soap at that time – that’s how crazy it was, so it was massively appreciated by those who received them.
DH: COVID-19 has been a game changer. Have you looked into making any new products to help fight this virus?
TB: We were one of the first companies to get a surface sanitiser tested against coronavirus strain. We got that test result and that’s been passed, so the club is benefiting from using those products. It’s a certified surface cleaner that can be sprayed on everything including clothing.
It’s passed to kill coronavirus as well as HIV, MRSA… the list is too long to quote, but the important thing is that it’s certified to kill coronavirus and in a quick time.
Where employers have a duty of care to their employees, as they do at a football club, you want to know the stuff you’re using is certified to do the job.
There are only two labs in the UK that can do the testing because they are deadly viruses, as proven, so getting a test and getting it in good time – we’re really lucky that we got our products into one of those two labs right back in early March.
The next development phase for us is to put our product in fogging machines. You can cut down the cleaning time by having a machine manually spraying mist in the changing rooms, physio areas, and gyms. We have the liquid, we just need the vehicle.
DH: Football stadiums over the years may not have been known as the cleanest places. Going down the leagues, a lot of them are older and harder to keep clean, so how have you noticed that change over the years?
TB: Norwich City are very good with their cleaning regimes. The cleaning processes and procedures have always been second to none, even compared to some of the bigger teams, for example the availability of soap in every toilet.
You’ve always had things you should have and most football clubs don’t. As somewhere that is going to have the public enter it, the due diligence and duty of care is absolutely huge.
Going forward, in reality, before allowing entry to a stadium, you’re going to have to make sure that everyone has sanitised their hands.
DH: Eventually, fans are going to come back to Carrow Road and expecting things to be spotless, so how do you see the game going forward in terms of getting fans back into grounds?
TB: Spraying and misting surfaces with a product that will kill coronavirus is going to be paramount. The fogging element and sprays for all the seats before and after every game is going to be an absolute must.
We’ve invested heavily in a sachet machine, which will have 3ml of certified and tested hand gel in it, which will be given away to everyone who enters the building. That’s going to be part of normal life now.
3ml is more than enough on your hands and then you’ll throw that sachet away. You ensure then that all 27,000 people have been given that and you’ve done as much as you physically can.
It’s a two-phase sanitisation. You need to stop it getting into the ground, then when you’ve been in the ground, before you take anything away, you need to sanitise again. It’s the entrance and exit sanitisation that is really important in anything you do.
Say you’re going to the shops. If you sanitise your hands when you get out of your car, you’re protecting anything you touch while outside the car, including other people. Likewise, whatever you’ve touched could have been dirty, so before you get back in your car you need to clean your hands. If everyone does that, the virus will be controlled far better.
On the seats in the stadium, cleaning them will be especially important when you have games in quick succession. The research suggests that it dies between 48 and 72 hours on plastics and metals, so in some respects, if you’re playing at home every other week, the virus will have died on those surfaces, but until someone confirms that you’ll need to be spraying those seats down.
The cleaning team will certainly have their work cut out for them, but we’ll do everything we can to help speed it up while ensuring the standards are kept high. Coronavirus has been a real rude awakening for nations all around the world. For now, I’m just excited to see some football on the TV!