GIVEN matches are played in pubs, the prospect of Aunt Sally returning any time soon would appear remote – but one league is up and running.

Last week 60 teams were in action and tomorrow will see the second round of fixtures, all without breaking any social distancing rules.

Instead, players will log on to the Bampton Aunt Sally Association website to see the scores gradually filter through.

The virtual results are the brainchild of league secretary Barry Aylett-Warner after the coronavirus lockdown prevented the season from starting.

“I thought ‘is there anything we can do?’,” he said.

“I had this eureka moment in the shower. I thought it through and the committee said if you think you can do it go for it.”

A computer programme takes the fixtures and generates a result, before assigning each team with a random doll count based on winning and losing score data from previous seasons.

The results then drip through on to the website from 9pm on Thursdays, simulating how they would appear during regular campaigns.

Last week’s opening round of matches went without a hitch.

Aylett-Warner said: “We’re happy with it. I’m pleased it was received well and we will watch with interest.

“What’s unique to us as a league is teams would normally put their own scores in after the matches on a Thursday night and see the results rolling in.

“This does the same thing and builds up over 25 minutes.

“If they are happy to sit there with a bottle of beer they can watch the thing filling up.”

The league have also brought in a forum to encourage interaction between the teams.

Committee member Gavin Carter said: “I think it’s an excellent idea.

“A lot of players were on there exchanging a bit of banter. It’s gained momentum.”

The next step is to introduce cup competitions, from next month.

But in a twist, those who have won through the virtual matches to reach the final will compete for real when conditions allow.

And with the league not having to pay for medals and trophies this season, winners will receive a cash prize.

It is a light-hearted way to keep the social side going in testing times.

But Aylett-Warner, whose big dream would be to be able to convert a Nintendo Wii game for Aunt Sally, also admitted it has a serious side.

He said: “I’m trying to preserve interest. My biggest fear is when we open up again how many pubs are we going to have lost?

“We need pubs with gardens to play and I have no idea which are going to survive this.”