As we emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown, football must assess what it has lost and go into rebuilding mode.
The Irish FA and clubs are going to have to heal their wounds and come out fighting again.
And there's got to be a new way of thinking. The football landscape has changed and the hard times aren't over.
Some supporters, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, will be nervous about attending matches and could be lost to the game.
Then there's the new economic reality we are walking into. Businesses have fallen and amid fears of a long and severe recession, companies are going to be too busy managing their debt to invest in football.
At a time when many around the country have lost their jobs, there's going to have to be a fresh look at budgets including players' wages.
Advertising and sponsorship revenue will be harder to find so football associations and clubs will need to raise their game if they are to survive.
In short, they will need to radically adapt their business models.
It's one step at a time back to normality for football. Matches are being played behind closed doors but though they can carry meaning, it's a soul-less experience and we can't feign interest in German football anymore.
The game is about emotion and without the fans it's pretty much worthless.
The Irish FA's 'Return to Football' brochure, disclosed by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, refers to matches being played behind closed doors in step three of the NI Executive's five-stage recovery plan.
But what does Irish League football mean without fans? No atmosphere, no revenue, no survival.
In a post Covid-19 world, the football landscape will be very different and some clever decisions are needed to raise the game off its knees.
Irish FA president David Martin accepts it's a challenging time for the association and clubs but he's positive brighter days are ahead.
"Up until now the clubs have been relatively sheltered from the impact of the virus as they have been able to furlough wages and have also played 80% of their home games," says Martin.
"They will need to have a fresh business plan for next season and that's where the challenge lies.
"We may not have as many fans through the gates and it will be difficult for football to generate revenue. I'm confident, however, that the game will recover from this crisis but it will take time and each club will need to have a fresh look at their finances and budgets while the commercial outlook is uncertain.
"For the Irish FA, there are huge challenges, like there are for every business. We aren't immune to the commercial difficulties but I have no doubt we will meet the challenge, deal with it and prosper as an organisation.
"With regard to the possibility of Northern Ireland games without supporters, it will present a significant challenge for the IFA but I have no doubt we can overcome that and still be able to deliver the programmes we are committed to delivering. On June 17, Uefa's executive committee will meet and we should expect a further update from that."
Northern Ireland legend Gerry Armstrong says he's been concerned about players' wages for a long time.
"I'm worried for the game because it's going to change and people's attitudes will change," said the 1982 World Cup hero.
"Fans will be cautious about returning and they are right to because their health and safety is more important than a football match.
"I've had a great career out of football but I've always said wages should have been capped 10 or 15 years ago.
"Now some players have so much money it doesn't matter if they ever play again.
"When it comes to contracts players have a lot of control now and they will do what they want.
"Looking at finances, people have lost their jobs and business have fallen away.
"Not everyone can afford to go to games so clubs must consider reducing the cost of going to a game and secondly, look at the television rights.
"Companies have tried to outbid each other but those contracts aren't going to be as valuable.
"I want the game to survive but it must do so in the right way and people must understand that life is more important than football. We can't put people's lives at risk."
Ballymena United chairman John Taggart admits some fans could be lost and the financial challenges are real.
"We need fans at the games," he argued.
"Irish League football cannot survive without paying spectators. It's as simple as that.
"The game is funded through fans, advertisers and sponsors. They won't pay for advertising space if there's no-one at the games.
"I think there is a danger we will lose fans. If you look at the footfall in Ballymena there's a high percentage of people who would be classed as vulnerable during this pandemic.
"They won't rush back to football and I can understand that.
"Once you get away from something it can sometimes be difficult to go back to it.
"With respect to the new economic conditions, clubs will face a financial challenge and they do need support and that's why I felt sharing the European money this season was a valid argument.
"The furlough scheme was helpful but my concerns are now how next season will work. Where will the income come from without fans? How can we sell season tickets or sort out players' contracts?"
Former Linfield and Coleraine hero Tony Gorman believes clubs will need to be more creative in their mission to raise funds.
"I've had a few conversations about where football is going from here and clubs really need to think outside the box in terms of fundraising," said Gorman.
"Some supporters may not feel comfortable returning to an environment where there are large crowds.
"Maybe games can be streamed live and revenue generated that way. Clubs don't want fans to drift away. They need to be inventive and some clubs can't rely on teams like Linfield bringing big crowds with them anymore.
"Budgets, including wages, are going to have to change at various levels of the game and the loss of advertising and sponsorship is going to be challenging. In the short term hard decisions will need to be made to keep clubs afloat.
"The richer clubs are better placed to weather this financial storm but others must fear they will go bust."
Crusaders defender Sean Ward, who has won the league and Irish Cup with the Crues, Linfield and Glentoran, says he feels a fair distribution of Uefa funding would be a positive move.
"I was all for sharing the pot of European money because I felt clubs were going to struggle," said the four-time title winner.
"Not every club can rely on the fanbase of a Linfield or Glentoran.
"It's going to be difficult for everybody and you have to ask where will the money come from?
"The game needs the crowds back but the players can catch the virus too and they have family members they are concerned about.
"This is a global pandemic that has stopped the world and that's why you have to take it seriously.
"We need to come out of this with extreme caution and make sure the game is safe.
"Then we can focus on rebuilding it."
Irish League legend Roy Coyle, the domestic game's most successful manager after pocketing 50 trophies, recognises the need for a fresh outlook.
"The health and safety of supporters, as well as the players is paramount," said the former Linfield and Glentoran boss.
"People's concerns are real and I can understand some fans being reluctant to return.
"Having said that, it's been a mentally challenging time for everyone and for the supporters, the game is such a big part of their life.
"I was going to matches every week and our health is just something everyone will have to consider.
"Clubs are going to have to look at budgets and players' wages but I would say good luck with that."
The Irish FA's 'Return to Football' draft brochure refers to Sport NI's guidance document classifying football as a "low risk contact sport".
I'm no medical expert but I wouldn't like to share a changing room or pitch with someone who was carrying the virus.
The document hammers home the importance of social distancing rules but that will be tricky to enforce in a dressing room and what are the players supposed to do? Not tackle one another?
Unfortunately, without a union, the players' voice has been lost in this crisis.
Yet they aren't robots. They have feelings and fears, particularly with regard to the more vulnerable members of their family.
If a player wanted to put his or her family before football for a few months of their life, who are we to take issue?
And while the Irish FA's draft brochure has plenty of detail, it remains unclear exactly how a player testing positive for the virus will impact his club or the league.
Will the squad have to self-isolate? Will fixtures be postponed?
We can see light at the end of the tunnel but we aren't close to the exit yet and must proceed with caution.
As we come through the pandemic we should feel ashamed at the way we hoarded groceries and stockpiled toilet rolls while failing to shield care homes from the deadly virus.
Next time, we must do a whole lot better.
But we also shouldn't beat ourselves up too much.
We lost lives but we saved lives too.
The virus is on the retreat because of our ability to pull together and the courageous, fearless and selfless NHS staff.
Now we need to rebuild our lives with renewed hope and that includes playing and watching sport again.
Football has been a great release in our stressful lives and even that was ripped from us.
Now it's coming back, we should cherish it more than ever.
But brave financial decisions will need to be taken.
It's a game which is re-emerging battered and bruised, but we have never had a better understanding of how empty our lives are without it.