The newsreader, just as I scramble around for the TV remote's mute button, utters the words "once in a generation crisis".

Preparing for a morning ringing around Scotland's football clubs, I consider putting this notion to them and noting how many simply laugh back down the phone. It's a phrase quietly shuffled into discussion around the cost of living, copied and pasted directly from equivalent debates on the Covid-19 pandemic; that other "once in a generation crisis" which kicked off all the way back in the ancient history of March 2020. Sarcasm aside, Scottish football's return to full operation is less than a year old if you factor in the, admittedly, brief return of crowd restrictions imposed amid concern surrounding a new variant of the virus reaping seemingly never-ending havoc on the world.

The days of it being illegal to sit on a park bench might feel like a distant fever dream to most of us now, but plenty businesses are still rehabilitating from the financial impact of lockdowns, however necessary such measures may have been. If you're in the business of running a football club, you're probably wondering when it's your turn to catch a break. Last time, it was stadium gates being padlocked causing the hardship. Now, it's the cost of opening them.  On these same pages last week, supporters told of growing strain in maintaining the labour of love that is following your team around the country; of their dissatisfaction with ticket prices and how many felt those in power were not particularly receptive on the issue. Most, however, will accept that clubs are wrestling with mounting problems of their own.

"The main thing that's affected us as a club is the whole costing of a game," says Eddie Hagerty, director at Albion Rovers in League Two. "The floodlight price before the hike in prices was over £50, now it's over £200. We're looking carefully at when we time games. There's a number where we've changed kick-off to earlier in the day, so we don't have to utilise the floodlights. That's one of the main things we're doing."

"Every single thing we pay for is more expensive than it was," admits League One Falkirk's chief-executive Jamie Swinney. "So, there is an impact there, and it's only going to get worse the longer that goes on."

Energy bills, for most, are among the biggest issues, hence the bringing of forward of kick-off times sanctioned by the Scottish FA in September. "We've been a wee bit fortunate on the energy side," Swinney reveals. "The Falkirk Stadium is part-owned by Falkirk Council and we, effectively, lease the internal part of the main stand as well as having the stands behind the goals that are the club's. Because of that, we were hooked into an energy deal on fixed prices,. Thankfully, from an immediate point of view, we've not had the same level of impact other clubs might have if they were on shorter term energy deals and they're suddenly paying two or three times that amount. Clearly, that would be a challenge for any club to manage."

And it is proving so. Earlier this season, Inverness Caley Thistle chairman Scot Gardiner said the club were considering a return to their pandemic operation, where staff would work from home, in order to save on stadium costs. Elsewhere, Aberdeen's commercial director Stuart Wicks admitted the club may have to raise prices for community and grassroots teams using their Cormack Park facility, while pledging to do "level best" in minimising hikes in other areas, such as ticket prices.

A recent survey from the Scottish Football Supporters' Association found 92 per cent of fans in favour of a standardised price cap on away tickets. It's a prospect Swinney, who has noticed a drop in away attendances, believes Falkirk could get behind - but only if it was "universal".

"You've got to put your own fans first," he insists. "We had 700-800 fans go up to Wick in the Scottish Cup last month and it was a tenner to get in. From that point of view, although it's still an expensive trip, I'm sure they would appreciate that at the end of that six hour journey they're only paying £10 to get in. That's obviously a really far away journey, but even if you're just going up the road to Alloa or wherever, would our fans appreciate it? They're already paying for fuel or a bus or train, food and drink for the day. If the ticket was £10 instead of £18, I'm sure they would appreciate that. But it has to be a universal thing, we couldn't agree to doing it at the Falkirk Stadium if our fans were still paying full price elsewhere. But if it was a universal one, it's something we'd absolutely consider because our fans would benefit in the long run. Over the past few years, the Falkirk support, considering how tough it's been, have been absolutely phenomenal. We're still getting very good numbers at home. I would suggest that I think there's been a drop in our away crowd, although it's still very good."

"Most of our supporters are season ticket holders and I know there's been a whole debate around changing prices," says Hagerty, with Rovers' general admission tickets ranging from £3 to £13. "When we look at people coming to a game, it's not a priority and if you take two or three pounds off, it's not going to effect that decision, so we haven't gone down that road. But we've done a number of small initiatives recently. For example, reducing the price of pies and drinks at certain games. You can get a pie and bovril for £1.40 at a number of games, which is a nice wee touch during this."

Precarious as it may be for clubs in the lower leagues to continually slash prices, there can be little doubt they are still keen to help where possible. Foodbank collections have become the norm outside grounds, and even those clubs with the most limited resources refuse to forsake making a difference in the community.

Rovers, for example, are planning to start opening up Cliftonhill for isolated people struggling to pay their energy bills. It's an initiative that Hagerty admits, although commendable, is grimly indicative of a dire situation. "The club is really actively involved in supporting people in the community," he said. "In January, we'll be using the stadium as a drop-in, for people who can't turn on their heating. They can get tea, coffee, soup and just a chance to meet other people in a warm environment. There's obviously the heat, but there's also the company and activities. So, for a lot of isolated people, finding it difficult to heat their house, it is a solution for a period. I know that sounds outrageous, but that's where we're at."