ROBBIE Cowling insists Colchester United have a future beyond the coronavirus pandemic - but admits he will have to make some 'very tough decisions' along the way.

In his latest statement, the U's chairman admits that some clubs may go out of business in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, with less cash to spend and wages 'likely to spiral in the opposite direction'.

But while he concedes that there are challenging times ahead, Cowling has stressed that Colchester will face their challenges head on, thanks in part to the prosperity of their successful academy.

In a statement on the U's website, Cowling said: "We still have uncertainty and some very tough decisions will need to be made, but I will make those tough decisions and Colchester United will comply and we will have a future beyond coronavirus.

"Situations like this aren't just testing; they're also revealing and for me it has revealed that Colchester United is a great club that we can all be very proud of.

"Even at a time when there is no football and so much uncertainty, the staff, the players, the sponsors and the fans have all been brilliant and have played their part in being a part of the solution.

"The media have been fantastic too and it's clear that they don't just report on our club, but also have great affection for it and care about its wellbeing.

"So with challenging times ahead of us, I have everything crossed in the hope that the EFL ratify the wishes of League Two club owners and our promotion battle restarts against Exeter in just a few weeks' time."

Cowling has revealed that the U's investment in their Academy and Florence Park training ground in Tiptree were leading them to their best financial results since their Championship years between 2006 and 2008, prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

And he says the club's reliance on their successful youth set-up is now more vital than ever, given the implications of Covid-19.

"Normally, promotion to League One would mean we could afford to spend another £200k - £300k on players but just taking part in the Play-Offs is going to cost that much and we may not get promoted and if we don't then that's £200-300k we won't have next season," said the U's supremo.

"So the challenge for football is to find a workable solution that allows clubs to operate as financially sound organisations.

"Ideally, more money will find its way down the football pyramid and measures will be introduced that will make clubs spend those funds sensibly and within their means.

"We have been trying to change the model at Colchester United for a number of years with our investments in the Academy and training ground and until this all happened, those strategies were leading us towards our best financial results since we were in the Championship.

"The measures the EFL will introduce are almost certainly going to involve a spending cap but they will most probably allow the wages of players under the age of twenty one to be excluded from the summing up.

"Therefore, our reliance on our Academy is going to be more important than ever because it will allow us to spend more of our capped playing budget on fewer high quality players who will then play alongside the academy products.

"Of course, this is not going to happen immediately even if the EFL introduce squad spending caps this coming season as they will have to allow clubs who already have players under contract to make the transition.

"Next season will go into a reverse spin. The financial impact of coronavirus will mean that clubs have less money to spend and therefore wages are likely to spiral in the opposite direction and clubs will manage with smaller squads."

Colchester are waiting to hear if the FA and EFL this week ratify their place in the play-offs, following the vote made by League Two clubs last week.

But whatever happens in the coming weeks, Cowling is predicting big changes for the third and fourth tiers of English professional football.

He said: "Football at League One and Two level is going to change dramatically next season, with probably half of the games being played behind closed doors.

"But what about afterwards when changes could be by design rather than just forced upon us.

"Are we going to simply let football go into ‘Limp Mode’ because it’s forced to do so before simply returning to how it was previously as soon as it’s allowed to?

"Personally, I think it would be a massive shame if the current situation isn’t a catalyst for change."