Football without fans is a poor imitation of itself

28 Jun 2020 05:17 pm, by YorkshireSquare

Since its inception back in 1992 the Premier League has very much been about marketing more than football. Its objectives have never been to improve the English game, if anything the national team and clubs further down the pyramid have suffered as a consequence. It’s always been about making money, bringing in piles of cash and making global brands out of its top teams. Whilst winners of the title were once owned by local businessmen and sponsored by Scottish lager companies, now even clubs down at the bottom of the league are owned by sovereign wealth funds and sponsored by Chinese betting firms.

Billions of pounds flood into the league from global TV deals but it’s only now, amidst this global crisis, twenty-eight years since the start of the Premier League that games have been made available to watch live, free to air on terrestrial British TV. It has always been about the money, about selling a ‘product’, it has never been about the fans. Changes to kick off times, moves to new stadiums with expanded corporate facilities, extortionate ticket prices and pies that need you to re-mortgage your house to buy one have priced the average fan out of the game.

But this global crisis, games played behind closed doors have exposed the Premier League for what it is, the biggest con in football. With the title sown up and only a few clubs in any serious threat of relegation there is little to play for in England’s ‘elite’ division and without the vociferous crowds to get behind the teams and spur them on most games have been flat, lacking in tempo or excitement. The Premier League may boast some of the best (most expensive) players in the league but it has been seriously lacking in entertainment value since it’s return.

The Championship has been slightly better, with its laughably low TV money there may not be as much money swilling about but there has been more to play for. With three or four sides contesting automatic promotion, a further eight in with a shout at the playoffs and a further eight fighting for survival almost every game has a purpose. Even without the fans there, there has been a purpose and a tempo to every game. Manchester City putting five past Burnley felt almost pointless, an exhibition match. Give me Cardiff three, Preston one any day! Even then though, with everything to play for, it’s not the same without fans.

The moments of joy on Saturday were taken from the players. Bamford scoring in front of an empty, newly named Norman Hunter stand. Alioski running towards an empty North Stand, blowing kisses towards the empty seats and Jack Harrison, surrounded by cardboard cut-outs, when in any normal time he would have been mobbed by the crowd. Football may be back, but it’s not the same and the powers that be in the upper echelons of the game would do well to remember what an important part of their ‘product’ the fans are. They are its life blood, it’s soul, they make it what it is.

”Ezgjan Alioski” wrote: We are Leeds, we played at home and we missed the fans to push us and we needed to find our motivation by ourselves and we did it. It’s nice to see the pictures and of course when you score you want to celebrate with the fans, especially at Elland Road and I tried. Maybe they saw me on TV, I’m going to remember them in the stadium and always celebrate with them like they are here.

Football without fans in the stadium is almost pointless, the games feel like flat pre-season friendlies and surely global audiences will think in future before splashing out their cash on a product that has been shown not all that it’s made out to be? Fans will return to stadiums, sometime, but when they do the power that be will do well to remember ow much they have been missed.

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Tezzafin wrote on 30 Jun 2020 03:09 pm

Whilst agreeing with the majority of whats said one thing that stands out has been the sterile,atmosperic vacuum of the games seen during lockdown.It has proven to me that the most important ingredient in the spectacle is missing.I hope the powers that be have taken notice.Who knows we may even get to the stage where the Prem becomes the cheapest if not even free at the turnstyle, now wouldn't that be a reward for the support who have shared very little of the "gravy train" Premiership.
Alas !! I do not hold my breath.

weasel wrote on 29 Jun 2020 11:07 am

I think to be honest regardless of whether there is a crowd or not a lot of the games will be flat as there are a lot of games where teams have nothing really to play for so are just going through the motions. With the title sewn up there is just a mini battle for champions league places and the battle for relegation. Probably half the teams in the premiership have little to play for so even if there was a crowd the matches would lack any real atmosphere or intensity. Man City for example are using these matches as a warm-up for their forthcoming Champions League matches and no player will want to get injured. Most safe teams are probably looking more at next season and probably playing within themselves as likely there will just be a short break before next season starts so they don't want to play at full tempo and risk burnout next season so are probably playing these games out almost like pre-season friendlies for next season.

The lack of crowds has made little difference in my opinion to how teams have played if the matches have been important. The lack of a crowd didn't in any way stop Leeds or Fulham playing at full pelt in Saturday, perhaps the lack of a crowd helped Leeds as we could have got even nervier in the first half with a crowd there.

The championship games have certainly had more bite to them but that is likely down to more teams having something to play for.