APIA Leichhardt advanced to the quarter-finals in stunning fashion, with a 2-1 win over the A-League club.
While the A-League is expected to return within the next month or so, it is unlikely that we will experience the ‘full’ version of Australian football straight away.
With the Bundesliga and K League already back, we can make some assumptions on what the A-League will look like when returning. While there will be different obstacles in different leagues, there are a few short-term problems that may arise with the return of the A-League.
But will there be positives to these challenges?
A lack of fitness causing more open games
A lack of fitness could cause games to be more open in the A-League when it resumes, due to the two months off football and a lack of genuine training.
In the Bundesliga, the average goals per game have been an astonishing 2.9, which is substantially more than the 2.3 average per game before the coronavirus break.
However, the A-League players will likely get an extended training period before the resumed season, meaning the games might not be as open as predicted.
Due to the games being played behind closed doors, A-League fans might find themselves not being as emotionally attached to each game.
In Germany, there have been some complaints about the lack of passion going into commentary, but commentators often feed off the fans support and are struggling to keep that level of emotion by themselves.
This may cause people to not be as invested in their club, simply because there will be no noise contributing to their emotions in the stadiums.
When you watch a football game and you feel something big has just happened, you will often be backed up by the crowd. However, without the crowd, you may feel alone in those thoughts while watching the game, contributing to a less emotional experience.
It is worth pointing out that artificial crowd noise is something that has been experimented with, while Premier League clubs such as West Ham are talking about having fans on the big screens while watching the game.
An advantage to teams in Sydney
FFA CEO James Johnson has announced that the A-League will be playing in a hub within Sydney but has not yet confirmed whether that would include just the metropolitan area or whether it would extend to Gosford and Newcastle.
Teams within this area may receive advantages from this hub.
While other teams will be in hotels away from their families, Sydney sides will be able to go home and stay in their natural environment, meaning they feel more comfortable playing football.
Also, perhaps, more importantly, local clubs will have the added advantage of being able to use their training facilities, while other sides will be forced to practise in unfamiliar and potentially lower-quality locations.
More consistent refereeing decisions
With fans not attending the A-League, we may see the refereeing standards rise.
Instead of having home crowds screaming at them for every foul, offside, throw in and corner, they will be able to make up their mind without the pressure and noise of the fans.
While referees don’t necessarily favour home sides, they may lean towards decisions in favour of them because of the fans.
Less pressure on players
Some players shine in the spotlight, but others, particularly younger footballers, prefer to operate away from it.
Without the demand of the crowd, some players will feel the will to try new things with the lack of pressure.
A negative example of this is SC Freiburg’s 3-3 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Freiburg, who were 3-1 up at the time, conceded after Robin Koch attempted to play the ball out from the back twice before having it nicked away from him just outside the six-yard box.
Koch most likely would have booted it away had fans been there, but due to the lack of pressure from the crowd attempted to dribble the ball just in front of his goalkeeper.
Teams who are fuelled by Crowds may fall
We may see fewer upsets for the rest of the season, with teams who rely on the crowd to get through a match possibly falling in form.
Earlier this season, when Sydney FC was a goal and man down in a top-of-the-table clash against Melbourne City, they used fuel from the crowd to help get back into the game. They eventually went in front through Kosta Barbarouses, and they then defended with their lives for the fans.
It is hard to imagine Sydney winning that clash without their supporters behind them, and it may contribute to a more straightforward end to the season for bigger clubs.
The return of football will negate change without fans during this period, and we will most likely see these consequences due to COVID-19.