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Live Reporting

Andrew Aloia and James Law

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodbye

    That's it from us for now.

    Thank you for joining us on a day where BBC outlets across radio, TV and online have been trying to bring a sense of how people - as well as clubs and players - are being affected by the current situation.

    We've also looked to bring a flavour of the positive things fans are doing to help clubs in their hour of need.

    We'll leave you with one last plug of a report we've compiled on the challenges almost every lower league side is having to deal with.

    How coronavirus has hit lower-league football

    St James Park

    BBC Sport looks at the impact of coronavirus on lower league football clubs, players and fans, and how the game might recover.

    Read more
    next
  2. World’s oldest club on need to ‘be flexible’

    Sheffield FC were founded in 1857
    Image caption: Sheffield FC were founded in 1857

    Come October, Sheffield FC will be 163 years old. Even for the oldest football club in the world, they have never endured times such as these.

    Sheffield FC’s chairman Richard Timms has been talking to BBC Radio Sheffield about how the team that represents the founding fathers of the sport are coping.

    “The impact is obviously devastating. When the country went into lockdown everything came to a grinding halt," he said.

    Asked if he has concerns for the future of the time-worn side, Timms added: “No, not at all. But you never know what is around the corner. When will football return is the biggest question.

    “We don’t have a lot of money, and never have had a lot of money, but it is a case of being flexible. We are flexible now, our overheads are virtually gone to nothing but so has our income because we are not tied into a load of professional contracts or have loads of staff.”

  3. Renewing ticket a 'way of thanking' owners

    Port Vale players applaud the fans

    Even football's hibernation and the likelihood that a large portion of the 2020-21 season will be played behind closed doors has not stopped Port Vale fans from buying season tickets for next term.

    Around 200 have been purchased since lockdown began, taking the total past 900.

    Malcolm Hirst, of the Port Vale Supporters' Club, said renewing his seat was "a way of thanking" owners Carol and Kevin Shanahan, who took over from Norman Smurthwaite - an owner that threatened to put the club into administration in 2019.

    "We owe a debt of gratitude to Carol and Kevin for how they have come in, transformed the club and given us hope," Hirst said.

    "I don't think we had any semblance of hope for the future of this club for over a decade. We are willing to put our trust in them, even in such a short period of time they have earned it."

  4. Get Involved at #bbcefl

    How can your club come through coronavirus?

    Ben Musgrove: In the National League, Woking launched #getbehindtheshirt and had 1,526 fans sign up to have names woven into the fabric of the shirt for next season.

  5. Wellens will have busy intray when game can return

    Richie Wellens

    Swindon Town are set to be crowned champions of League Two should a proposal to end the season be rubber-stamped.

    But their manager Richie Wellens is now turning his attention to what challenges may await him once football can return.

    Salary caps, games behind closed doors and socially-distanced training sessions are just some of the possible items in his intray.

    "There's a massive financial hole in the game at the moment," he told BBC Points West.

    "We've lost out significantly in not being able sell season tickets for a potential promotion up a division. Our last four home games were looking at sizeable crowds.

    "My main concern now is to try and sort out the contracts of the existing players at the club before we turn our attention to any further additions.

    "The money will be back in the game, we just have to wait and be patient."

  6. ‘A growing realisation that finances don’t stack up’

    Gates at Fratton Park

    After more than 10 weeks without football, a number of of the lower leagues have already been curtailed. How this has been handled in some cases has caused controversy, elsewhere it has been praised.

    League Two was the first of England’s top four divisions to make that call, but debate on what happens in League One continues.

    Dr Rob Wilson, a sports finance expert at Sheffield Hallam University, has shared his thoughts about what the value of consensus in League Two is and what the cost of disagreements in League One could be.

    “Of all the four major professional leagues you have more collaboration in League Two and you erode that collaboration as you go higher up the leagues," he told BBC Sport.

    "There is a growing realisation that football’s finances don’t stack up and as there continues to be promoters of self-interest you will see the eradication of some of their competitors, and no league can survive without competative integrity.

    “In League One it is all well and good having a couple of big teams trying to dictate what should happen when in reality they have 23 teams that they need to look out for.

    “The importance of competitive integrity in a division is that it translates into an increase in club value. If you have a competitively balanced league it is more attractive to broadcasters and commercial partners.

    “Bury was the shot across the bow last year, that if clubs don’t do something serious then a handful of other clubs will go down a similar path.

    “There is a definite collective understanding in League Two that they need to do something about a business model. That is where you get salary cost management protocols that seem to be creating a degree of impact, and talks about salary caps are encouraging.”

  7. Football not just 'once a fortnight operation'

    Cressing Road

    Facilities at grounds up and down the divisions mean clubs can normally get income from much more than just matchdays.

    Braintree Town, of the National League South, are used to opening their clubhouse almost every night and doing community and academy work.

    “The situation has brought about a fundamental withdrawal of all our business," chairman Lee Harding told BBC Essex.

    “Everybody is paid up to date but it’s a difficult time. We’ve had help from a number of key people; supporters, our 12th Man group and Braintree Council, and without them it would have been very difficult.

    “We’re all working hard to make sure Braintree Town survives and with the help of the people so far we think that will be the case. But if this lasts into the autumn and winter it becomes more difficult as people like myself and the board are reliant on our own businesses."

  8. Walsall chairman confident of coming through crisis

    Leigh Pomlett

    Walsall were one of the majority of clubs who voted to end the League Two season last week, with chairman Leigh Pomlett saying they wanted "a degree of certainty".

    But how are the Saddlers coping financially with the lack of football?

    "The things that I really wanted stakeholders and people to do and step up to the mark to help the club through this crisis have really done so," he told BBC Radio WM.

    "The supporters in particular have been really good. I'm really pleased with the response of the club to this crisis.

    "The football club's been going more than 130 years - I'm damned if I'm going to see it go under as a result of coronavirus."

  9. Losses leave clubs at risk, warns Iron chairman

    Scunthorpe fans at Glanford Park

    One of the biggest challenges for the English Football League will be to ensure that clubs are resilient enough to withstand the financial impact of coronavirus and be fit for any return to competitive action.

    EFL member clubs have now gone two months without matchday revenues during lockdown, stripping them of vital cashflow and forcing losses.

    League Two side Scunthorpe were on course to break even for the next financial year, but those forecasts have been shattered by the upheaval.

    "It's about £2.3m [in shortfall] behind closed doors for us next season, and it's about £500,000 that we lose this year," chairman Peter Swann told BBC Look North.

    Between now and the end of next season we could lose somewhere near £2.7m, or at least we'd have to find £2.7m. There are ways around that, if we get more in the TV deal or if we get an advance or rescue money we could get through the season.

    "As soon as fans are allowed back through the gates we can generate our income but the worst case scenario with no money coming in is we wouldn't be able to start the season.

    "No club would, we have to justify that as a company, if we have no income coming in and cannot trade, we'll be in the same boat as many other clubs and we won't be able to start the season."

  10. Dartford hope to help key workers with childcare

    The season might be over for National League South side Dartford, but there is plenty going on at the Kent club.

    Co-chairman Steve Irving is confident that the club's future is financially secure in the short-term because of the way they have structured themselves.

    Instead they are looking at ways they can help other organisations and key workers.

    Dartford's Princes Park ground

    “We’ve still got some activity going on at Princes Park because we have some non-football related contracts," he told BBC Radio Kent.

    "G4S are in-situ using the car park and there’s a little bit of training going on for them in terms of transition to frontline necessity if they are called upon.

    “Pretty much all our players now are at the end of their contracts. We’ve looked after them the best we can until we know what happens next.

    “Our academy is very important to us and we’ve been able to carry that on remotely until the end of term.

    "We’re hoping that once things start to lift and schools open, we can get our community work back up and running. We’re hoping to help key workers if during the summer they’ve got childcare needs – our community team will look after them with fun sessions at the ground.”

  11. ‘The government needs to step in’

    Earlier we highlighted that MP Damian Collins, the former chair of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport committee, was calling for a bailout for clubs.

    But how exactly would that look? BBC Radio Manchester spoke to Collins to find out. Watch the video in their Twitter post below.

    View more on twitter

    Collins continued by saying that he fears that “between five and 10 clubs could go bust this summer unless something is done”.

    “We’re very close to a cliff edge at the moment where we will see more clubs go through what Bury went through unless something is done,” he continued.

    “It doesn’t affect the Premier League clubs so much because they’ve got the resources to weather this storm but the problem is particularly with clubs in League One or League Two that are very reliant on the income they get from playing matches.

    “Without that money coming in there’s going to be a crisis and the reason it’s a particular problem now is that in June normally clubs would start to get their money from season tickets for next season through.

    "That is not going to come through because at the moment we haven’t finished this season let alone started next season and these clubs have got no reserves to draw on.”

  12. Brakes put on Rochdale's official driving school

    As football clubs have been badly hit by coronavirus then so too have associated businesses.

    Rochdale club commentator Martin Culshaw has been running a driving school connected with the club for around 20 years, teaching Dale players past and present, including Joe Thompson and Callum Camps.

    But, with social distancing measures currently in place, the brakes have been put on teaching.

    "I've taught quite a few of the players to drive, most recently Luke Matheson, who equalised at Old Trafford when we played Manchester United in the Carabao Cup," Culshaw told BBC Radio Manchester. "That was a good moment for me.

    Luke Matheson
    Image caption: Teenager Luke Matheson signed for Premier League side Wolves in January before rejoining Rochdale on loan

    "Key workers can get a driving test but there a lot of arguments within in the industry about whether that's safe.

    "They are difficult to come by. I've had three of my pupils who are classed as key workers all been turned down for tests because of their availability in the area.

    "There are no driving lessons at the moment unless you're doing them for a key worker, and no driving tests until 20 June, although I think that's going to be extended."

  13. ‘A lot of clubs would have gone under already’

    Video content

    Video caption: ‘A lot of clubs would have gone under already’

    A furloughed Dover Athletic player says the government scheme has probably saved the club.

  14. MK Dons to benefit from first professional sport since lockdown

    Marshall Arena

    MK Dons are to benefit from the first professional sport to take place in the United Kingdom since lockdown - Championship League snooker.

    The behind-closed-doors tournament will be held at the MK Marshall Arena - adjacent to Stadium MK and owned by the club - start on 1 June.

    Judd Trump will be among 64 of the world's top players to take part.

    "During these unprecedented times, this is a pivotal moment," said marketing director Andy Gibb.

    “A number of additional measures have been put in place to provide many across the country with an opportunity to watch live sport for the first time since lockdown began."

  15. West Brom messages end fan's coronavirus coma

    For all the pounds and pennies in the world, money isn’t what makes football or any sport really go around.

    And certainly clubs can’t be reduced to being like ‘any’ business. No, not when you also take into account the social and cultural value of clubs in towns and cities across England, the UK and world.

    Sure, this live page is here to highlight how the game is dealing with the financial plight, but there is the human element of how clubs are still enriching the communities that they are a part of.

    There is no finer example, than how one West Bromwich Albion fan fought back from a coma after contracting Covid-19, when messages of support from his beloved club were played to him.

    Peter George was moved out of intensive care after coming out of a coma

    Peter George ended up in intensive care at Worcester Royal Hospital last month.

    With her husband unresponsive, Teresa George contacted the club and received video messages from manager Slaven Bilic and some players.

    She said when they were played to her husband, along with the club's musical anthems, he began moving.

    He is now recovering at home after his ordeal.

    Now THAT is the true value of sport!

    View more on twitter
  16. Get Involved at #bbcefl

    How can your club come through coronavirus?

    Liam Green: Many Crawley Town fans aren’t accepting money back on their season tickets, I think fans of other clubs should do the same to help out their clubs.

    Jamie Ward: Workington AFC are producing a production of their 1958 game against Manchester United's Busby Babes in the FA Cup in the hope they can raise funds. The United Stand are helping with this.

    South West Peninsula League: In the South West we are keeping the football community together with social media such as a virtual cup, team of the day and Covid-19 pen-pics. From Mousehole - who open their ground for camping - to Sidmouth - who provide car parking for the Folk Festival - all are missing out.

  17. ‘Taking less money to play in League One and League Two’

    Job losses are an economic reality hitting many industries, and football is no different.

    In the English Football League, made up of 71 clubs that play in the Championship, League One and League Two, there are 1,400 players coming out of contract in the coming weeks.

    Neal Bishop

    Mansfield Town’s 38-year-old midfielder Neal Bishop is one of those who is being let go by his club this summer and is matter-of-fact about what the pandemic is likely to mean for him and his peers.

    "I'm probably relieved I'm at this stage of my career now rather than the beginning or middle because I just can't see the money being around," he told BBC East Midlands Today.

    "This summer it's going to be a case of 'we want you but there's your offer, take it or leave it' - there's going to be 10 or 11 players in the same position as you, willing to take less money just to secure a place at a League One or League Two side.

    "I hate to be so pessimistic, I just think, realistically, football is going to change for a very, very long time below the Championship."

    You can read more about how players are being impacted by clicking here.

  18. 'No point non-league playing behind closed doors'

    Maidstone's Gallagher Stadium

    When domestic football returns, it will almost certainly behind closed doors, with some predictions that fans will not get back into grounds until early 2021.

    Non-league sides rely heavily on matchday income for their survival, prompting Oliver Ash, co-chairman of National League South side Maidstone United, to question the point of clubs at that level trying to get back to action for now.

    "The purpose of non-league football is for the fans to enjoy themselves and come to the game," he told BBC Radio Kent.

    "It's [playing behind closed doors] simply not a solution for any club at our level because there's no income. Doing any sort of TV streaming is not really conceivable.

    "Our activities are dependent on crowds, so the basic football club business is at a standstill and it will be until the government deem it safe to continue crowd-type activities.

    "Some of our activities, whether it is hiring the pitch for training or fitness work - if that is allowed before crowd attendances at professional matches - that would allow a lot of our community work to continue. That would be a halfway step and would bring some life back to the stadium.

    "It's a really tough situation for the staff, including the players. Most of them, who've now had their contracts come to an end, are, like many other hundreds of semi-pro footballers, out of work and not sure when their work might start again."

  19. 'The future is very bleak'

    Chesterfield

    It had already been a tough few years for Chesterfield, who were in League One as recently as 2017 but now find themselves in the fifth tier.

    Owner Dave Allen has put in £700,000 to plug the financial gap at the club since January, with £100,000 lost in function room sales since 23 March.

    "It's not been great anyway before all this happened," said Chesterfield company secretary Ashley Carson.

    He told BBC Radio Sheffield: "It's hitting us at every angle and the future at the moment is very bleak.

    "I think our balance is sat on around £15,000 and that's all we've got in the bank."

  20. How vulnerable is the women's game financially?

    Tom Garry

    BBC Sport

    Chelsea manager Emma Hayes (left) and Tottenham's co-manager Karen Hills

    Despite the seriousness of the situation, there is a lot of confidence that England's top women's clubs should be able to navigate their way through this tricky period financially.

    That is largely thanks to the significant increase in financial investment that the English women's game has seen in the past two years. Two years ago, the outlook would have been far, far bleaker.

    However, below the Women's Super League, there are grave concerns, especially where clubs do not have the financial backing of an affiliated men's Premier League or Championship club.

    Already one third-division women's team - AFC Fylde - have been disbanded by the men's arm of the club. The decision came in April after Fylde's league season was declared null and void, despite the Lancashire outfit being ranked among England's top 40 women's sides.

    Further down the pyramid, Hereford have also parted ways with their women's side, who played in the Midwest Counties Female Football League, and there are worries, across the lower divisions, that several more women's clubs will not survive this period and will be 'cut loose' but their 'brother team' to reduce costs.