A new system designed to keep people safe in specific areas has allowed footballers to return to training for the first time at a Scottish League Two club.

Annan Athletic is the first football club in the UK to use the Econnects system launched by solutions firm Eco to help keep people safe in a designated environment.

The firm said this could a sports stadium, shopping complex, offices, or hospitality business.

Annan Athletic were able to return to training at the club’s Galabank ground on Tuesday evening by using Eco’s new Econnects Visitor Registration Tool.

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The club is also keen to use the technology to open up its clubhouse and to help bring fans safely back into the ground.

Annan Athletic chairman Philip Jones said players “were able to log-in and then form that secure bubble”.

“We are talking to the fans now about how we propose to use the same technology to help bring them back into the ground.”

Solutions specialists Eco, based in Annan and Cumbria, has launched the contactless Econnects system to keep staff and customers safe.

The firm’s Econnects technology is designed to help venues comply with health authorities’ test and trace schemes.

Eco’s system helps venues maintain records of staff, customers and visitors to support health programmes in both Scotland and England identify people who may have been exposed to the virus, while at the same ensuring organisations remain GDPR compliant.

Eddie Black, Eco managing director, said: “We have developed Econnects to provide a simple, affordable, contactless solution to help keep people as safe as possible in any environment - whether that be sporting arenas, pubs, restaurants, cafes, offices, gyms, entertainment venues or other premises.

“Knowing this solution is in place gives everyone that all-important confidence to visit these venues and gives the organisation a competitive edge by showing they take the safety of their own people and their visitors extremely seriously.”

The Works has swung to an annual loss after being weighed down by impairment charges caused by the pandemic.

The books and stationary retailer told investors on Thursday it has seen initial sales from stores which reopened in June exceed management expectations.

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It reported a pre-tax loss of £18 million for the year ended April 26, compared with a profit of £2.3 million for the previous year.

The slump was driven by non-cash impairment charges resulting from Covid-19 of £19.5 million, relating to goodwill and downgrades in the value of its stores, it said.
Revenue for the year increased by 3.5% to £225 million as it was buoyed by online and in-store growth before the pandemic hit.

In the 17 weeks to August 23, the retailer said total sales were down 26%, but this was ahead of trading forecasts.

Chief executive Gavin Peck said the company has been "encouraged" by trading after the lockdown lifted, and will focus on improving online capacity.

He said: "The closure of our entire store estate in March had a significant impact on our business, however we responded to the crisis with agility and were ready to bounce back once safe to do so.

"Our decisive action in response to the Covid-19 pandemic enabled us to protect colleagues and customers, meet the significant increase in online demand, and minimise the financial impact.

"Our performance during the pandemic shows our customer proposition is more relevant than ever and despite the significant uncertainty that remains, the board continues to believe that we have many exciting opportunities ahead of us that will enable us to deliver value for all of our stakeholders in the long-term."

Recruitment giant Hays has warned over further cuts to its workforce as it revealed annual profits plunged by nearly two-thirds after the Covid-19 crisis hit hiring worldwide.

The group saw its consultant workforce fall by 11% to 6,900 at its June 30 year-end, with a 6% fall in the UK and Ireland, and said a small further drop was expected in the three months to the end of September.

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But the group is expecting most of this to come from leavers not being replaced and natural staff turnover.

It came as Hays reported a 63% fall in pre-tax profits to £86.3 million for the year to June 30 after fees tumbled 11%.

In the UK and Ireland, operating profits slumped 66%, with the pandemic following hot on the heels of a difficult end to 2019 amid Brexit uncertainty and the general election.

The group said the recruitment market had begun to recover, with fees stable since May as lockdown restrictions have eased.

It said it was seeing "modest" signs of a bounce-back in the permanent recruitment market, with temporary hiring stable.

Hays has also now opened around 80% of its offices.

Alistair Cox, chief executive of Hays, said: "The pandemic severely impacted all our markets globally."

He added: "Overall, we have protected our business, while taking actions to appropriately reduce costs."

The group said it had reduced its cost base by around a fifth since the pandemic struck.

It is also investing in boosting staff and capabilities across growth areas, with more than 20 projects being earmarked.

Mr Cox said technology was a sector that was "ripe" for further growth, with the pandemic accelerating IT trends, while large corporate accounts is another growth market.

Technology and life sciences were the two private sector jobs markets that remained largely robust throughout the lockdown, according to the group.

Across the UK, Hays said all regions were impacted by the crisis, but that the London jobs market was slightly more resilient, with fees down 10%.

The East and North West suffered some of the biggest fee drops, down 27% and 19% respectively, with Ireland down by 26%.

It said IT fees grew by a "solid" 4% over the year in the UK and Ireland.

Hays has a total workforce, including consultants, of around 10,400 worldwide across 266 offices in 33 countries.

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