Four points separate teams from fifth to 15th in one of the closest seasons in recent history.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has affected all walks of our lives, and sport is no exception.
All sporting events, both domestic and international, were either postponed or cancelled in the first quarter of the year, but thankfully things have now started to resume, albeit with different packing.
Let’s see how this pandemic has affected the world’s most-watched sport, football.
With all major football leagues of the world, including English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and German Bundesliga, resuming after a 100-day hiatus, there is still an unsettling feeling watching these games at home. Despite the fact there is no change in kits, coaches or stadiums, they all feel different to us despite striving to re-evoke the emotions and passion for the game.
So what’s the missing element? Obviously the fans at the stadium.
The crowd of any sport sitting at the stadium plays a significant role in making that game lively, be it the yellow wall of German club Borussia Dortmund or the sparking streets of London. The case is not the same this time around. Instead of chants, cheers and echoes filling the air the loudest sounds blasting around the stadium are coming from the referee’s whistle and the dugout of competing clubs, where respective coaches and support staff are backing up their players to force the ball into the back of the net.
The other aspect of this odd resumption revolves around the monetary impact on the entities associated with football and every other sport whose games are now being played behind closed doors. The boards are losing money now that income has been restricted to TV rights and in-game sponsorships only. If you see the financials of any sporting club or organisation, a major chunk of their revenue comes from stadium attendees.
Some football clubs also reduced their payroll during the lockdown period, while others contributed this reduced number towards relief funds. As of now, stakeholders are still unable to recoup the shortfalls brought about by this outbreak as the resumption tries to bring things back on track.
Undoubtedly crowdless stadiums are becoming the new normal in this pandemic environment and the slogan ‘football without fans is nothing’ makes more sense than ever. The number of affectees is on the up, so there is no evident timeline when these stadiums will be filled up to arouse the emotions around this beautiful game.
But whatever football is now, fans around the globe are welcoming it as a ray of hope that one day they will return to the days of sharing the glory with their teams.
This new normal will indeed be a test for many, and the consequences may not be equal to everyone. It will test the patience of the fans and other stakeholders. It will also bring an opportunity for players to exhibit and showcase their competence while facing a challenge to finish compressed campaigns by playing elevated minutes of football.