JOHN Kear predicts that the Bulls will not see their fans again until 2021.

The £16 million bail-out package announced by the government on Friday has lifted the mood within rugby league as they plot a way out of the coronavirus crisis.

There are still hopes that the suspended Championship campaign could be resumed later this year.

But any games would be expected to be played behind closed doors.

And Bulls coach Kear does not anticipate crowds being permitted at any sporting event in the immediate future because of the strict social-distancing measures that would still be in place.

Kear said: “When you look around and read the death numbers, a return-to-play for rugby league or any other sport is well down the list of priorities.

“There is the mental health aspect for people who enjoy watching sport. But I don’t think you are going to get any large gatherings this year.

“Until there is a vaccine, I can’t see that changing.

“That is a guesstimate from me, nothing officially from the RFL or anything like that.

“It’s from me being an avid watcher of the news.

“I think they need a vaccine before you can allow a massive number of people into one place.

“It’s feasible to play behind closed doors but that doesn’t solve the problem of generating income for clubs.

“You just have to be quite relaxed about everything and as positive as we can be, while realising the problems that society is experiencing.”

Rugby league is the first sport to receive a government loan as the industry feels the pinch from being placed on hold for the past seven weeks.

Without that financial aid, many clubs were fearing for their survival. But Kear admits it remains a tough time – and the prospect of playing without crowds would just add to the strain.

He added: “If you’re in Super League, you obviously get a fair whack from the Sky deal.

“Some money does drift down to Championship clubs but it’s not enough to function without corporate and sponsorship revenue and gate money.

“I feel it’s a precarious position for sport in general, not just rugby league.

“It’s nobody’s fault. It’s a problem that society is having to deal with.

“Obviously sport is within society and we’ll deal with it as we can. But we’ve got to get the economy moving first.

"Sport is a big part of that economy but it's not the most important part.

“It is a very strange situation for everyone involved. But you’ve got to look at the bigger picture and take a long-term approach.

“If, in a year’s time, the game of rugby league and the clubs are still functioning efficiently and we’ve got a competition going on, I’d certainly take that at this point.

“You can’t look at it day-by-day. The people running the country have got to make long-term decisions with the safety of individuals as a priority.

“Much as we can miss sport, and there’s nobody missing it more than me, we’ve just got to batten down the hatches, do as we’re being asked and be ready to return to playing again whenever that may be.”