Pub landlords who have been at the centre of Blackburn's matchday drinking culture for more than 25 years have officially called time.

Derek and Sue Haworth, who have run The Fox and Hounds in Ewood for the last 28 years, officially stepped down on Monday, amidst slowing trade and an uncertain future due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mr and Mrs Haworth announced they would be leaving the Fox and Hounds back in September and even though retirement beckons for the couple, Mr Haworth said a lot has changed over the last 28 years with Covid only making things tougher for the industry.

Speaking last year he said: “A lot of it’s down to costs. At one time there was the off-licence and the pub, and that was it; but now people can buy cheap beer in supermarkets, and as a pub you just can’t compete.

“Then there’s the larger chains, like Wetherspoon, who buy cheap and sell cheap.

“And now with Covid every pub is struggling.”

Mr Haworth, 68, said it was a combination of wanting to retire and facing an uncertain future because of the coronavirus crisis that made him come to the decision to leave.

He added: “Covid has had a big say in it. It’s made it hard work, the pubs aren’t doing as well.

“We’re a big sporting pub and we haven’t had the football crowds because of lockdown, and we can’t even restart our darts or pool leagues. It’s really tough, and we don’t know when things will be back to normal.

“There’s nothing going on at the pub now - you can’t even socialise and that’s what you come to a pub to do.”

It is thought that should the right candidate wish to take over the Fox and Hounds immediately, the pub will re-open once restrictions allow on either April 12 or May 17.

If not, there could be a longer wait before glasses are clinked again in the shadow of Ewood Park.

Posting on his Facebook profile on Monday, Mr Haworth wrote: "Sad day watching them put the shutters up on the Fox - 28 years of history.

"Hopefully it will open again.

"There is someone coming to view it today.

"Massive thanks to all our customers over the years, it's been a pleasure to serve you, lots of love, Derek and Sue."

Mr and Mrs Haworth said they'd made some good friends over the last 28 years, and were planning to stay in the area.

Mr Haworth added: "I’m looking forward to spending time on the other side of the bar for once but I just hope whoever takes over will keep it running, keep it sport orientated and not change too much.”

Cllr Maureen Bateson said: "It was a meeting place for fans. It's not just that they have lost their everyday trade, they have lost the football trade as well which for most of them was a life line."

Director of pubs and brewing for Daniel Thwaites, Andrew Buchanan, said: "Derek and Sue have done a fantastic job at the Fox and Hounds over their time running the business.

"They have provided a fantastic community hub for sports teams and other community groups.

"As is often said, all good things come to an end and they have chosen to retire from the business.

"We wish them well and are currently exploring avenues to re-open the Fox and Hounds with new management and a makeover.

"Clearly these plans have been disrupted but we hope to see the pub re-open in the near future.”