Gary Johnson: Without fans there is no game

Torquay United fans at Plainmoor Photo: Cameron Geran/PPAUK

Torquay United fans at Plainmoor Photo: Cameron Geran/PPAUK - Credit: Cameron Geran/PPAUK

A resumption of football in the lower divisions will only work when fans are allowed back into grounds, not with games behind-closed-doors, says Torquay United manager Gary Johnson.

'The fans are the game. Without the fans, there is no game,' stressed the Gulls' boss.

Premier League and Championships clubs are already training as the Covid-19 lockdown eases, and there are plans to complete the 2019-2020 season at those levels without supporters.

The EFL One and Two are also committed to promotion-and-relegation, and they want to hold play-off matches this summer.

Mid-table Torquay's National League season was ended several weeks ago and, like everyone else, they are now waiting for a date when the 2020-2021 campaign will be allowed to start.

There have been suggestions that social distancing guidelines may keep supporters away, with or without testing, until at least next year.

But Johnson says: 'I personally would want to start when supporters are allowed back in to watch football.

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'At least there is a light at the end of the tunnel now.

'The situation will improve a bit more if games in the Premier League and Championship go off without too many hitches, which we all hope they will.

'But in the lower divisions, it's very difficult for clubs to start again with no finances coming through the gates.'

Johnson believes that enough people may be prepared to pay for TV coverage of top-level games for a limited period, but the same sums would not apply in the lower divisions.

Johnson, whose squad remains furloughed, added: 'We are lucky in the South West, both with the numbers from the pandemic and in what we can get out and do.

'When you see people on some beaches at the weekend, let's hope there isn't a rise in the (virus) numbers ahead.

'The next big step will be a date for the start of next season.

'I understand why nobody can give us that yet, but once we know that date, everything - training, signing of players and all the stuff like season-tickets, kit, sponsorship - works backwards from there.'