SO, HOW are you coping without top-level sport?

Rather than being at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium, I found myself strolling along Penarth pier at 3pm on Saturday. And I bumped into a freelance sports TV presenter and an FAW bigwig also looking to fill an unexpected weekend off.

Sport is ultimately unimportant when compared to the life and death issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But it’s at times like this that the nation really needs a distraction and that’s why the absence of sport is being felt so keenly by those of us who love it and live it for most of the year.

That’s why any matches that did go ahead at the weekend enjoyed huge attendance spikes.

Six games took place in the National League on Saturday, with attendances up by 15.5 per cent from each side’s previous home attendances.

Maidenhead experienced the biggest rise, with 1,662 coming to watch their home game against Stockport County – a 28.2 per cent increase on their previous crowd of 1,296 four days previously.

Of the six games to be played, each match experienced an increase in attendance with the overall figure going from 11,910 to 13,766 when compared to previous home matches for each side.

The Northern Premier League saw even bigger rises in attendances, increasing by 89.7 per cent.

In the eighth tier of English football, 4,653 people defied concerns over the virus to attend the four matches that took place – up from 2,452 from previous figures.

Of the games to take place, South Shields v FC United of Manchester saw a huge crowd of 3,274 attend, a whopping 117 per cent increase from their previous figure of 1,508.

Lancaster City also saw a big spike in their match against Witton Albion – an increase of 84.2 per cent with 216 fans going up to 398.

Further research shows that there was also a rise in Google searches by users looking for their local football teams online, as fans rushed to watch any live sport they could in the wake of widespread cancellations.

That’s not to say that the National League was right to play on while the Premier League, EFL and most sporting bodies across the world opted to postpone or cancel events.

In fact, many of the managers in the fifth tier were extremely vocal in their condemnation of the decision.

"We don't need to put ourselves in that position, yet we have. It's stupid," said Chesterfield boss John Pemberton.

“We've all got families. I've got an 81-year-old father who lives on his own and I can't go to see him now because we don't know where we are.

"We have players who have young families, young children, parents and grandparents.

"There's no common sense in playing this game today."

South Wales Argus:

Common sense is what’s needed at the moment and if clubs and players are not happy to go ahead then the organising bodies should suspend action until the picture is clearer.

And there is little point in speculating about what will happen to the remainder of this season.

Will we play on into the summer months? Will matches be played behind closed doors? Will the season be declared null and void?

These are all options that will be discussed but everything is up in the air at the moment as we simply don’t know how things will develop over the next few weeks and months.

As EFL chair, Rick Parry, said: “These are challenging times for the League, its clubs and the game as a whole.

“Now is the time for cool heads and calm reflection, rather than speculation as we look to steer our competitions and clubs through this period of uncertainty.”

The decision to suspend EFL matches until at least April 3 was a sensible one, as Newport County AFC manager Michael Flynn acknowledged.

It seems unlikely that action will be able to resume on April 4 and a further disruption would certainly cause financial concerns for lower league clubs operating on a week-by-week basis.

But, for now at least, the initial suspension offers everyone a little breathing space.

UEFA is holding emergency meetings with representatives of European clubs and leagues and national federations today and the expected postponement of Euro 2020 will create further space for domestic seasons to be completed, which is surely the most desirable option.

And the EFL will then convene again tomorrow to discuss their plans, but it seems we may not see anyone kicking a ball in anger for some time.