As the possibility of behind closed doors games in England grows, we ponder how long it will be before they are played in front of paying customers again.
Premier League - When Will Fans Return?
In recent years, a slogan regularly popped up at football grounds across the United Kingdom and wider world: ‘Football Without Fans Is Nothing.’
Whether used as part of a protest against ticket prices or in a battle against club owners, the phrase was an essential tool in supporters emphasising their worth to the game. From vocal support to a glittering away of flags and banners that adorn the most famous terraces in world football, it is they who provide the backdrop to events on the pitch.
Take that away and what do you have left? The answer, it seems, is not a lot.
Yes: you may still have an absorbing contest played out between some of the world’s greatest players. But without the verve and energy that a full stadium brings, all that is left is a soulless bowl punctuated by the muffled shouts of its participants and muted goal celebrations.
Throughout time, football matches behind closed doors were a result of clubs being punished for the behaviour of their fans. However, it is a sight that is set to become more commonplace in the near future.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, world health authorities have naturally sounded great caution as to when governments can realistically expect to relax bans on public gatherings. Naturally, football cannot be immune to such measures and unfortunately, empty stadiums will become a familiar sight whenever the sport is given the green light to resume.
A glimpse into the future was offered before football shut down across Europe as Serie A and UEFA restricted access in a bid to carry on. One notable example was Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund, yet they were not entirely alone as fans congregated outside the Parc Des Princes to offer support and set off the odd firework or two.
How long the measure will remain in place for is anyone’s guess. While continued speculation abounds, the optimistic estimate a post-summer return, however, the cautious suggest we may not see normality restored until January 2021. Perish the thought.
But a potential problem on the horizon whenever leagues resume is the die-hard support of any club will be naturally tempted to replicate the PSG ultras and surround stadiums on matchdays. Although government lockdowns will almost certainly still apply in certain areas, temptation knows no bounds and if a team are on the cusp of winning a league title, the natural instinct would be to flock to the stadium.
Ultimately, when football can open its doors to the paying public again is anyone’s guess. What is certain though is while any return will be welcomed with open arms, one without any fans present will be a hollow experience.