CARDS’ chairman Rosemary Johnson has warned fans to expect the worst when the club finally get the go-ahead to begin the 2020-21 season.

The coronavirus pandemic and lack of guidance from the football authorities are playing havoc with National League outfit Woking’s plans for the new campaign.

But when the term does get under way, supporters will have to get used to a very different matchday experience at The Laithwaite Community Stadium than they’ve been used to.

In an exclusive and extensive interview with the News & Mail, Johnson stressed that the club want to keep supporters as well informed as possible in these uncertain times, even if the news isn’t particularly positive.

She said: “There’s an uncertainty about when the season will start and what we have to do before it starts.

“My guess is that we won’t hear about the start of the season until after the [2019-20] play-offs.

“Who knows what the budget size for next season will be? We had one of the smallest budgets in the league in 2019-20, and if it stays at that level we will have one of the smallest, or maybe the smallest, in 2020-21.”

That budget won’t be helped by the likely butchering of the stadium’s capacity in order for the Cards to comply with social-distancing measures. It will cost the club much vital income.

Johnson said: “A limited capacity could run to 1,000 to 1,200 fans, so the impact on the club will be significant.

“We have brilliant sponsors, such as Andy Laithwaite [of Laithwaite Financial Services Ltd], but it’s not at the level of some clubs and we can’t run at the level that other clubs run at.

“We can’t put season tickets out because if we have restrictions of 1,200 fans, how can we turn season-ticket holders away? Maybe we’ll look at premium season tickets to give you entry.

“Planning things is very difficult to do at the moment. We’re looking to cut costs everywhere we can. We’re trying to use volunteer help where possible.”

Johnson highlighted some of the things the Cards may have to consider in order to stage matches, or even just get players training.

She said: “Will players need to be tested [for coronavirus]? Maybe.

“Players may have to wash their own kit after training.

“For a match at Woking, will we need to use the boardroom as a dressing room? Can we use communal showers?

“How can we make sure the crowd stays socially distant?

“We’ll need a steward outside the toilets – which ones can we open up?

“When we go to away games, we can’t travel on a coach – so are we going to ask the players to drive five hours, play a match and then drive five hours back? Can players travel together or must they travel alone?

“The list becomes endless. I could throw two million things at you, and without any clue [as to what’s going to happen] it’s very difficult [to plan].”

She said that the Cards’ income from sponsorship has also been hit by the pandemic, because they don’t know what packages they can fulfil.

“The sponsors have been brilliant,” said Johnson. “And not one of the fans asked for a refund on a season ticket for last season. We’ve got fantastic fans – we’re so lucky that they’re so supportive.

“But in terms of what [sponsorship] we can sell, it’s very difficult.

“People want to put money in – but until we know what we’re doing, it’s a case of ‘What can we sell them?’.

“We have to take each day as it comes. We’re keeping our spirits up. At our level, matchday income does become quite key. But all nightmares are solvable.

“We just wish someone would make the decision [about when the league will start], even if they say ‘Start in November, play a short season, play twice a week and have a North/South split’.

“The players have been egging each other on and are working hard to keep fit,” she added.

“I guess Dowse will want his spine of the team to be players from last year [2019-20]. He’s got the basis of a really good team there.

“A group of players who know each other does count for a lot.”

For the full, exclusive interview, get the 16 July edition of the News & Mail