You would be pretty hard stretched to find anything that hasn’t been affected and in some way had a detrimental impact on them due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It has stripped back life to a basic and insular living that has created a whole new level of isolation. For many this isolation and working from home has become normal (so normal in fact, it seems daunting going back to the office…) . One thing that has still not become normal and I doubt ever will feel normal is the eerily silent football stadiums populated by FIFA sounds which are on TVs up and down the country every weekend. Due to the amount of boredom throughout the pandemic, the betting industry has also seen a massive surge because making accumulator bets every saturday morning is the only joy some fans have during this time. The lack of fans is something that has rocked the football world and may well change it completely in the future. But just how exactly has Covid-19 affected the football industry?
Football fans around the world were left at their wits end in March 2020 when almost all of the world went into a lockdown and the sport was initially paused and then returned but without, arguably, the most important thing in the game – the fans. The banning of fans from stadiums as part of a wider international lockdown due to the pandemic has meant families, friends and communities are no longer out participating and celebrating their team live at the stadiums every weekend and are instead confined to their isolation and TV. This has massively disrupted many routines around the world and caused a massive football shaped hole in many people’s weekends.
Changed atmospheres leads to differing results
It is however, not just the fans that are feeling the effect of the lack of fans in the stadium. It is also massively affecting the players, coaches and clubs. The atmosphere and spectacles that fans provide in stadiums is often a driving force for better performances and spirit on the pitch for players. This has been blatantly obvious during the pandemic with teams having freak results and the shift from home & away fixtures importance. The lack of fans has seemed to level the playing field for many teams.
With clubs unable to host fans there are new and innovative ways that clubs are starting to use on match days in a bid to remain relevant and retain a steady income. This has seen teams go digital and use streaming services to host their games instead of massive TV deals. It has also seen teams start drive-through cinemas to watch games in their stadiums car parks.
One of the biggest and most obvious effects that Covid-19 has had on the football industry is income and finances. No fans and less merchandise being sold has meant clubs at the top have seriously less income – surviving solely on television deals and televised games. As for lower clubs, many are at crisis breaking point. The inability to get fans to the game and distinct lack of television opportunities has meant many are getting badly hurt by the pandemic. That is the ones that are allowed to play. Many teams’ leagues have been halted altogether showing the FA’s throughout Europe’s complete disregard for grassroots footie.
Youth players thrive
With less fans and general animosity around the stadiums during games, young players are being allowed to flourish even more than before. They are also being helped by less money being involved in the game and so teams are having to use their homegrown talent than outsourcing for astronomical fees. These young lads are also starting to be brought in due to the numerous and ever increasing amount of injuries which have occured within top teams as the players are being played to literal breaking point. The football calendar being so crammed last year following the postponement of most leagues has led to a need to make up for lost time, but at the expense of player safety.
It would be hard for the world of football to escape from the pandemic. Indeed, Covid-19 has managed to impact everyone’s life in almost every manner – and footie is no exception. The effect of Covid has been far-reaching in the game and it would be easy to assume that it will change the very nature of the game for years to come with the impact being so large. Many will be weary of a full return to normal society but there is one thing that’s for sure. Football fans will certainly return to their beloved stadiums up and down the land at some point, the question is, when?