Torquay United chairman Clarke Osborne believes that it will be at least three months before the Gulls and their National League rivals can hope to resume action in the face of the Coronavirus shutdown.

Torquay United in action Picutre: Tom Sandberg/PPAUKTorquay United in action Picutre: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

In an exclusive interview with the new Torbay Weekly, Osborne criticises football’s authorities for their handling of what he describes as a ‘war’ situation.

He also calls for an end to the uncertainty over whether the current season should be completed or not.

Osborne’s Riviera Stadium Ltd, which owns United, is believed to have invested more than £2.5 million over three roller-coaster years which included relegation (2018), the lifting of the NL South Championship under manager Gary Johnson (2019) and an injury-hit consolidation in the NL this season.

This week United, who had ‘furloughed’ their non-playing personnel recently, extended the measure to manager Gary Johnson, his backroom team and all the players as the indefinite suspension of the 2019-2020 campaign continues.

Osborne praised the ‘brilliant response’ of TUFC’s staff to the crisis and comments: “It is humbling to witness their support and endeavour.”

But he stresses: “While I apportion no blame, I am concerned for the future of professional football.

“I don’t think the leaders in our sport have provided the much-needed decisions on the status of this season and have not tackled this crisis as the fully integrated national sport that it is. I realise decisions regarding unfinished business are difficult but this is a war that humanity has never seen, and a war that requires the temporary halt to all sport and leisure activity.

“The outcome in terms of winning this war, and being able to return to our lives and the enjoyment/participation in sport and leisure, is certain. But we just do not know when.

“What we know is no-one can safely predict how long. But it is certain to be many weeks and, in my view, at least another 12.

“In times of war, lack of decision can be catastrophic, and that’s why I think the leaders of football need to be united and decisive.”

How lower-division clubs can survive the crisis, and how it might affect their longer-term future is a major and growing concern.

So far, the only financial assistance on the horizon is a £125 million package offered by the Premier League last week.

Details have yet to be announced, but much of the offer appears only to be an advance on fairly modest ‘trickle-down’ money that NL clubs were due to receive later in the year anyway.