The 2020-21 Danske Bank Premiership season could return as late as October with cup competitions at risk of being kicked into touch. However the end-of-season European play-offs are expected to make a comeback.
The Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) have written to clubs requesting their thoughts on how next season’s calendar should look and many of them are hesitant about rushing back into action.
Although Linfield, Coleraine and one other side will be in European action next month, the domestic season is sure to be delayed.
Clubs insist that the league is not sustainable unless fans can come through the gates in significant numbers, and many believe at least 50% capacity attendances in grounds will be necessary when the action does resume.
The Irish FA have indicated that some fans may be allowed to attend the Irish Cup final on July 31 at Windsor Park but it could be several months before normal attendances return.
An end of September or early October resumption is a possibility, with a 38-game league season being completed despite the late start.
Premiership first-team squads may not feature in the County Antrim Shield and BetMcLean League Cup, with more midweek games being played in order to complete the campaign.
As the league has regained its fourth European place, the end-of-season play-offs, which give the seventh-placed side a chance to qualify for the Europa League, were popular and are likely to be resurrected.
Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry said: “We should be looking at October, depending on how the health crisis is.”
Ballymena United counterpart John Taggart added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we had an October start.”
The advantage of an October resumption is that it gives clubs, who have been using the furlough scheme for wage payments, adequate time back in training, while also allowing supporters to return in significant numbers.
Taggart added: "I would put the senior club reserve or youth teams into the County Antrim Shield and let them play in that competition.
"They would have to bring the play-offs back because it kept the league alive.
"The chances of the team in seventh doing something may be few and far between given the away fixtures that have to be played, but I'd love to see it come back. It was kind to us before and I'd be delighted to be involved again, but as a club we want to be in the top six anyway.
"The arrival of Glentoran and Larne, with the finances behind them, makes that more difficult but we will see how next season takes shape."
McKendry feels a 38-game campaign is still doable, even with a later than usual start.
"The Premiership Management Committee will look at next season and take guidance from government," he added.
"It's key fans are allowed back into grounds. Clubs need that guidance for season tickets, shirt sales and trying to resume normal service.
"I don't see any reason why not because you can play Saturday-Tuesday matches for a period.
"It's not the ideal scenario but needs must.
"Clubs should be using the furlough scheme up until October when the 'new normal' will be difficult for fans to come back to the game with confidence.
"You have one senior cup that carries a European place and other competitions can be looked at.
"I think it's possible to do the 38 games if one or two cup competitions can be dropped for one season.
"We have four European places up for grabs next season and we wouldn't want to curtail it again.
"Clubs can make plans on and off the pitch and train ahead of a start date when the fans can be welcomed back."