Opinion: Without the fans, football isn’t the game we know and love

Over the last few days, the Bundesliga made its comeback. The moment it was confirmed that it would return without the fans, due to the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, it was obvious that games would be played in a stranger atmosphere than usual.

Just seconds into BT Sport’s coverage of Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke, I didn’t only realise, but appreciate just how important the role of supporters really is.

Dortmund’s 80,000 seater stadium, Signal Iduna Park, is normally packed to the brim. With their famous ‘Yellow Wall’ creating an atmosphere anyone would dream of experiencing. Whereas this time, only the kick of the ball and the referees whistle were worth listening to.

The game itself was full of goals, with Dortmund seeming as if they had never been away. However, without the fans there to celebrate the 4-0 victory, it certainly effected the game of football overall. While watching the game myself, I felt more distant to the action than ever.

For the UK, the country that demands more fans and creates more noise than any other, football hasn’t arrived back to the pitch just yet. A decision is yet to be made about the future of the current season in the English Premier League, however the hope is that ‘Project Restart’ will be able to move forward in terms of non-contact training within the next few weeks.

Even despite the risks of COVID-19 infection, the main drive behind the return seems to be clubs wanting to avoid having to pay back millions in TV revenue. Clubs could reportedly miss out on around £300 Million for failing to complete this season alone, so it’s definitely giving the return a major push in one direction.

They want the leagues back on our TV screens, but if British football is to return in empty stadiums, how different will it be without the fans? My guess is a lot.

No actors would like to perform in an empty theatre. No pop star would want to perform on stage with no audience. It’s not going to be any different for footballers.

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The Premier League is the biggest league in the world, with the biggest crowds and most passionate fans to match it. It will be a completely different spectacle without them.

Fans in the UK are often known as the 12th man, creating songs, chants, celebrations and hostile atmospheres. With this in mind, you have to think about how much they effect the player’s attitudes on the pitch. If they haven’t got atmosphere or added motivation to feed off, will a televisual experience even be worth watching?

Sometimes it’s beyond atmosphere, it’s about communion, and what happens when all that interactive chemistry between the two, comes together to create success. That undefinable cultural weapon of passionate moments, is taken away.

Of course the success of the Bundesliga return has to be taken into consideration. It was great to have football back.

However, it wasn’t the same without the fans. It just isn’t the game we know and love. This is just something we’re going to have to get used to for the near future at least.

For now, there are many obstacles to overcome. Before football can even think about returning behind closed doors, it must be safe to do so. It can’t place an unnecessary burden on an overstretched state, with no game being worth a single life, no matter how much we miss it.

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