KEVIN BLACKWELL has urged the Premier League to offer financial support to the Football League – and warned Championship clubs could go out of business if supporters are banned from attending matches for the next six months.

Blackwell welcomed Neil Warnock back to the training ground yesterday after the Middlesbrough manager finished his isolation period following a positive test for Covid, but will remain in charge alongside first-team coach Ronnie Jepson when Boro travel to QPR this afternoon.

The game at Loftus Road will take place without supporters in attendance, a scenario that is set to be repeated until well into the spring after the Prime Minister opted to abandon the trials that saw 1,000 fans watch on from the stands at the Riverside last weekend.

With their biggest income stream having dried up entirely, EFL clubs are understandably concerned about their financial security, and while Middlesbrough are in a relatively strong off-field position thanks to the continued support of owner Steve Gibson, Blackwell expects a number of other Championship clubs to struggle to stay afloat.

The Premier League is understood to be discussing a potential £250m rescue package for the EFL, but is has been suggested its support could be contingent on a number of caveats that could include a commitment to scrap relegation from the top-flight this season if the situation with regard to Covid does not change.

Championship clubs would be extremely reluctant to sign up to such a commitment, but Blackwell insists it is imperative the Premier League does everything it can to support the rest of the football pyramid at a time of such immense financial risk.

“I fear for clubs who are one their knees anyway, and who usually take 60 or 70 per cent of their revenue through the gates,” said Blackwell. “I’d like to think that teams up in the Premier League will understand that, down in the lower leagues, thing can change drastically financially.

“Many players in the Premier League now – someone like Mason Mount, for example - they went on loan to the Championship, and perhaps even lower-league clubs, to give them that extra knowledge and development, both physically and psychologically. So, there is a big role to play for the Football League feeding into the Premier League.

“I just hope everyone sees a bit of sense and there is a bit of help coming from somewhere. It’s no one’s fault that clubs can’t bring fans in - it’s certainly not the clubs themselves.

“If a club was being badly-run and had exposed itself to massive debts, been frivolous with its signings, then it deserves to go out of business because it has not been run properly. But that is not the case with many Football League clubs. This is a result of Covid-19, and nobody could have predicted the devastation it has caused.”

Boro have first-hand knowledge of the impact caused by Covid, with Neil Warnock and an unnamed player having been forced to isolate after recording positive tests.

The player has now returned to full training and is set to be involved in the squad at Loftus Road, while Warnock returned to Boro’s Rockliffe Park training ground yesterday afternoon to oversee a team meeting.

He is in good spirits despite his enforced isolation over the last ten days, but given his age and the seriousness of his illness, he will remain in the North-East this weekend rather than travel to London.

“Neil’s getting on well,” said Blackwell. “He’s going to come in and be in on the team meeting, speaking to players. He’s well on the road to recovery. We speak every day, and we’ve been able to hear the improvement in him day by day. He’s been able to take this opportunity to rest and recuperate.

“He’ll be back in, but we’re not looking for him to travel (to London). I think Neil has said that myself and Ronnie have done the preparation work all week, and at the club I think we think it’s a final chance for him to have a rest period at the weekend. After the weekend, it’s a long old season.”

Blackwell will be choosing from a full squad when he selects his team for today’s game as Ashley Fletcher has recovered from the knock that forced him to hobble out of last weekend’s draw with Bournemouth.

“We want to take the right precautions with people, and that’s really what it was with Fletch,” said Blackwell. “We’re looking to go in with a full squad.”

Middlesbrough (probable, 3-5-2): Bettinelli; Dijksteel, Hall, McNair; Spence, Saville, Howson, Tavernier, Johnson; Fletcher, Assombalonga.