Stoke City chairman Peter Coates believes the best case scenario for football’s return to action is June but with games played behind closed doors.
But he admits that even that timescale is beginning to look optimistic for the Potters and their rivals in the current coronavirus crisis.
Coates says he would normally be opposed to games being played without supporters, but concedes that might be the only way to complete the 2019/20 season in reasonable time.
The FA has put back football’s return to the end of April, provisionally, but Coates is looking well beyond that.
“In terms of playing again, I think it’s fair to say the first priority for football is to complete the current season,” he said.
“I think that’s what we want in football in an ideal situation.
“Nobody wants to see games played behind closed doors – I certainly don’t – but these are very difficult circumstances and it’s finding a way to complete the season in a way that is as fair as you can be to everybody.
“June would be the earliest we could probably do this, but in all likelihood it could be even later than that.”
Coates welcomed the £50m package announced by the EFL to try to help clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two negotiate the current crisis.
The majority of that £50m (£28.9m) is a so-called Basic Award Payment that was due to clubs anyway and has been brought forward to help with cash flow.
Championship clubs like Stoke are due £800,000, League One clubs £250,200 and League Two clubs like Port Vale and Crewe £164,200.
The EFL has also made available a £21.1m pot from which clubs can apply to dip into for interest-free loans to help tide them over any shortfall to try to ensure players and employees are paid.
Championship clubs can apply for a maximum of £584,000 each, while the figures for League One clubs is £182,800 and for League Two clubs including Port Vale and Crewe it is £119,800.
“It was probably as much as the EFL could do at this stage,” said Coates, “because we are all in limbo and not knowing what is going to happen.
“These are very worrying times for all of us, from health to business and the world of football.”
Stoke’s own finances are ultimately underpinned by the Coates family’s ownership of bet365, but the gambling industry will soon be feeling the pinch with the absence of any meaningful sport to bet on.