Carlisle United chief executive Nigel Clibbens has issued a stark warning about the financial challenges ahead - saying the club face a £1.2m "hole" without fans.

Clibbens said that will be the cost of supporters not being allowed to attend games at Brunton Park for six months.

The Blues director set out the financial situation in a week when the Government put a halt to the planned return of fans to League grounds.

Clibbens said clubs at United's level will not be able to withstand the increased financial pressure they will come under unless there is outside help.

“However you look at the figures, we face a £1.2m hole in our finances if we are locked out until March 2021," the chief executive said.

"The numbers haven’t changed since June, but the problems we talked about facing in June are now here."

Clibbens used Carlisle's official website to issue a response to the news that fans would not be back in stadiums in the near future.

The decision was made by the Government following a rise in Covid-19 cases across the country.

United were one of seven clubs who held what appeared to be a successful test event for 1,000 fans at Brunton Park last weekend.

The game, though, is now facing a fresh crisis, with the EFL, Premier League and the Government in discussions over possible rescue plans.

Clibbens said the club budgeted for the possibilty of fans not being allowed back into grounds for the rest of 2020.

But he underlined the financial hit Carlisle would take despite the measures they have already taken to try and cope with the effects of the pandemic.

He said the need for help was more pressing now than it had been during the initial lockdown, and pointed out the reality that cash was "haemorrhaging away" without supporters being allowed back into Brunton Park.

Clibbens said: “Our annual season ticket income is around £350k a year, and our walk-up match ticket income is around £550k. That’s £900k per season. 

“On top of that our commercial income is around £650k per year, with retail at £250k. In total that gives us a ‘normal trading income’ of around £1.8m.  

“With much of our retail coming on home match days, when fans come to the ground, and much of our commercial income from match activity such as hospitality, advertising and sponsorship, that means about £1.75m of our annual income comes directly from our 23 home match days. 

“That’s around £75k per game or £150k per month over the playing season."

Clibbens said that three months on from an EFL statement in June that referred to possible solutions, "there is still no solution even though talks are continuing, the losses are building up and cash is haemorrhaging away.

"However, it is now worse, because in June we had furlough support, cost minimised from lockdown and it was uncertain about behind-closed-doors games, whereas we now know we face a lockout and behind-closed-doors for some time to come." 

News and Star: United chief executive Nigel ClibbensUnited chief executive Nigel Clibbens

He added: “With the lockout possibly lasting until March 2021, that would leave just seven home games. It puts two thirds of that £1.75m matchday income at risk. Put simply, that’s £1.2m of potentially lost income.

“When commentators talk about clubs needing money, it can appear like scaremongering, talk of clubs failing, etc. 

“The reality is this – in May, during our initial financial planning for the 2020/21 season, we forecast to have no match or ticket income and no fans at games until January 2021.

“That was to have no significant income except from EFL and Premier League, with corresponding reductions in retail sales and commercial income from behind-closed-doors games for half the season. 

“Throughout we have believed it was highly optimistic to plan to have fans in for a full season in 2020/21, given the experience since March, despite the season starting only a couple of weeks late and the CV-19 restrictions being relaxed.  

“Planning to lose half the season’s match income, up to Christmas, inevitably meant we faced a loss of over a million pounds and a cash hole to fund.

“As bad as that was, we believed we could get through using all the guaranteed cash from player sales in previous seasons and streaming income, along with other cost saving measures. We are one of the lucky ones. 

“This meant we didn’t need to generate emergency cash by selling season 2020/21 tickets over the spring and pre-season to survive, when we knew fans at games was very uncertain and, at best, remote.

“We now face a further three months to March 2021 of no match income even beyond what we forecast. This means there is a desperate situation ahead for clubs.

“To pay for these losses needs either cash that isn’t from ‘normal trading income’ [we haven’t got any] or for us to stop paying bills. 

“Because most of our payments each month are to footballers and HMRC tax, if you stop paying them, in football, the repercussions come very fast. They grow very quickly and the harm caused is deep and potentially catastrophic. Bury, Macclesfield and Wigan fans will testify to that.

Like furlough, the excellent support from HMRC has gone away and they want the debts from 2019/20 paid back and new bills paid on time.

“Other cash that isn’t from ‘normal trading income’ comes to the club from cup runs, player sales or external support."

Clibbens said it would be "reckless" to base Carlisle's future on potential cup income given the uncertainty of cup runs and the lack of crowds from those games too.

He also warned that the "lifeline" Carlisle currently had from the recent sales of players - such as Everton's Jarrad Branthwaite - will disappear very quickly.

Clibbens also said that three has been "no new money of any significance" provided by the EFL and Premier League during the crisis - only advances of money the club would have eventually received anyway.

"By bringing forward cash as a short-term fix during the summer, it builds up a large problem for later if CV-19 persists – and it will," he said.

Clibbens added: "Clubs cannot withstand this. We are fortunate that we have a transfer lifeline, but once that is gone...what then? I am encouraged by the statements from the Government about helping – we need it even more than we needed it just a week ago."