SOMETIMES, the figures are all you need to tell the story.

Middlesbrough are currently operating with an annual wage bill of around £17m. Add on agents’ fees, loan and signing-on fees and other related payments linked to the playing and coaching staff, and the figure is closer to £20m.

It costs around £12.5m-a-year to run the club off the pitch. Some of that expenditure has come down slightly with matches currently taking place behind-closed-doors, but the majority of the club’s costs are fixed. You still have to pay your tax and utility bills, and fund the upkeep of the Riverside and the training complex at Rockliffe Park, even if fans are not attending matches.

So, over the next 12 months, Middlesbrough can expect to have around £32.5m of outgoings, a figure that will be broadly similar for most Championship clubs.

As things stand, however, their annual income for the next year is expected to be around £8m, almost all of which will come from the central distribution of prize money and television revenue overseen by the EFL. Given that the Government is suggesting that large-scale sporting events are likely to have to remain behind-closed-doors for the next six months, there seems little chance of that figure increasing without outside assistance.

Outgoings - £32.5m. Incomings - £8m. Clearly, you do not have to be a qualified accountant to conclude that the sums do not add up.

So, while it is tempting to assume that professional football in England has sufficient money to withstand the financial trauma currently being experienced as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the reality for just about every club in the country is markedly different. The money is not there, and unless it can be found quickly, clubs in all three divisions of the Football League will rapidly start going to the wall.

“There seems to be a feeling that things will magically turn out okay,” said one highly-placed source with knowledge of the finances of a number of clubs in the Championship. “But the reality is completely different. The gaps you’re talking about are huge, even at clubs that have always been well run. They’ve managed up until now, but clubs have reached the point where they’re absolutely on the brink. For some, you’re probably talking about weeks, if that, where they’re able to manage.”

Despite the stark figures outlined above, Middlesbrough are actually in a much better position than most of their Championship rivals.

They have taken advantage of HMRC’s three-month payment window and, like the rest of the clubs in the second tier, have benefited from the early payment of some of the Premier League’s solidarity commitments.

Crucially, they had also built up reserves prior to the coronavirus pandemic hitting, meaning they have something of a buffer to at least help them get through the next month.

Even so, unless the current situation changes, the money will run out by the end of November, meaning they will be wholly reliant on the largesse of owner Steve Gibson, who no doubt has plenty of other business interests making similarly urgent calls on his support.

Something has to change, hence the talks currently taking place between the Premier League and EFL about a proposed £250m bail-out. Representatives of the 20 top-flight clubs met on Tuesday to discuss providing financial support for the 72 clubs in the Football League, but the meeting ended without a consensus.

It is understood that while some clubs are sympathetic to the plight of their fellow teams in the Football League, others are more concerned about plugging the gaps in their own balance sheets. Tottenham, for example, are estimated to be losing around £4m-a-game because of the lack of income at their gleaming new stadium.

The Government appears adamant that it should not be propping up professional football clubs when the Premier League remains awash with television money, while the PFA is equally insistent that its members should not have to accept pay cuts, even if the money is simply not there to meet current wage commitments.

Something will have to give, and the fear from within football is that unless something changes quickly, it will be a number of the clubs that have long been the bedrock of the national game. Sadly, you only have to look at the figures to see why that might well be the case.