OXFORD City Stars believe a September restart for next season is unrealistic – because they cannot operate without crowds.

The 2019/20 National League campaign was written off by coronavirus in March.

But Stars and other clubs they have consulted at their level cannot see how competitive fixtures for next term can start on schedule.

While some lockdown restrictions are expected to be lifted by the end of the summer, many across the world of sport are predicting action will have to take place behind closed doors.

Although that could be a viable option for leagues with diversified income streams, for Stars the gate receipts are fundamental.

Greig Box Turnbull, one of the club’s directors, said: “There’s no television or commercial money dripping down from higher levels in ice hockey, so clubs have to be self-sufficient.

“The bigger clubs in our league operate through an owner putting money in, but the rest have to stand on their own two feet.

“To compare us to football, we’re Accrington Stanley.

“We have to live within our means and I don’t think that’s a bad way to be.

“There are costs with running a team and we have to hit a certain number to function.

“The long and short of it is we can’t operate without crowds.

“It’s a concern.

“We are being level-headed and trying to plan as best we can.”

On top of the potential loss of ticket revenue, it is also expected income from sponsorship will take a hit, given how many businesses are suffering.

With so much uncertainty, the resources available to new head coach Dean Birrell has been reduced.

Box Turnbull said: “There’s still a playing budget, just not as big as last season.

“They have an opportunity to play for a very experienced and successful coach.

“The players understand the wider situation and we have to pull together as a club.

“The most important thing is we have a club for the long term.

“Not making adjustments now would be foolhardy.”

At this stage all Stars can do is cut their cloth accordingly and wait to see what happens in the next four months.

But they are not alone in thinking games played out in an empty rink is a bad idea.

“As things stand it’s a watching brief in terms of when the season starts,” Box Turnbill said.

“I would like to think the league would consult with all the clubs before making a decision.

“From the clubs we have spoken to there’s a consensus that we can’t play without fans.

“It’s down to start in September, but we think that’s unrealistic.

“We have heard rumours of National League football starting in January, would that be more realistic? We don’t know.

“The most important thing is the health and safety of players and supporters.

“If we don’t think it’s safe, we won’t do it.”