The last high profile match that had a crowd in attendance was the clash between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid at Anfield in March 2020. It was the second leg of their last-16 Champions League clash, where some of the other games were postponed due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
There was a lot of uncertainty around this match at the time because both England and Spain were considering going into lockdown. The match went ahead and Atletico went through to the next round of the Champions League but I think the match should have been replayed at a later date.
In the same week the Cheltenham horse racing festival went ahead with thousands of people meeting together for the four-day race meeting. Around this time plenty of sporting events were getting cancelled and this event got a lot of criticism for allowing so many spectators attend the event.
Sport had to take a break during the first surge of coronavirus. Sport does wonders for people whether they play it or watch it. Sports people were uncertain about what was happening at the start of lockdown because they are not used to having such a long break, football in particular as matches are usually ongoing. The German Bundesliga was the first European football league to restart their season in May 2020.
La Liga in Spain also got the go ahead to resume their season in June 2020. Restrictions started to lift during the summer and the Premier League were also given the go ahead to resume their season in June 2020. Other sports like golf and basketball also resumed their season in the summer months of 2020 all of which no fans were allowed to attend. Sport lovers were delighted to have sport back on television especially football which cheered a lot of people up during a difficult time.
When football resumed in May 2020, there were no crowds allowed at matches which had a massive effect on all the players. There was no buzz of a crowd atmosphere. When the Premier League resumed in June there was no crowds allowed at matches and Sky Sports introduced a fake crowd noise on their channel to make it feel a bit more exciting and normal. At the start it was hard to watch because it didn’t feel real at times.
No crowds had a big impact on the outcome of matches since its return and according to Reuters the amount of away wins has risen from 30% to 39% due to no fans at the games. At the start there was more goals scored in games than ever before and in October 2020 an article on Premier League explained out of 68 fixtures so far this season 221 goals had been scored, which is an average of 3.25 goals a game. I noticed at the beginning of 2020/21 Premier League season games where end to end, it was like watching a basketball match.
England came out of their second lockdown at the end of November 2020. In December, 2000 fans were allowed back into grounds in London and Liverpool for a few weeks. I really enjoyed football more in these few weeks having fans present because it made a difference in giving the home team an extra advantage which football is all about. I noticed this the most when Everton played Arsenal at Goodison Park in December and Everton were beating Arsenal 2-1 with 10 minutes to go but the home crowd proved to be an advantage as Everton held on to beat Arsenal. Another good example of this was Liverpool playing Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield in December 2020, the home crowd proved to be the difference as they cheered on Liverpool to get a late winner against Spurs.
Other sports like golf and GAA resumed during the summer months of 2020 and with no spectators able to attend there was a few surprise results. A good example of this was the 2020 PGA Championship were Colin Morikawa won his first golf major, I think it could have been a different outcome if fans had been allowed to attend as the roars of fans would have put added pressure on Morikawa.
Another example of this was in GAA, when Tipperary played against Cork in the Munster Football Championship final. With no crowds cheering, Tipperary felt less pressure believing they could beat Cork for a place in the semi-final. Tipperary were able to pull this off and knocked Cork out of the 2020 All Ireland Football Championship. With the lack of crowds the impact it is having seems to show particularly in away teams due to the lack of home fans. I think that is the reason why there are so many shocks in the FA Cup third round this year.
At the end of December it was announced that there will be no crowds at any football matches for a while as England go into their third lockdown. This came as a blow to most clubs but it’s great that football is still going ahead. Watching football does wonders for people’s mental health and it gives you something to focus on. Some managers wanted a short break for a few weeks to let the new strain of Covid-19 die down, but the Premier League said that if the team has 14 registered players fit a match is allowed to go ahead.
With not much to look forward to at the moment due to restrictions I look forward to watching matches regardless who’s playing. Football cheers people up especially when your favourite team scores a goal or wins a big match. I hope you continue to enjoy watching football as it helps people get through this difficult time. To all the fans who normally travel to matches keep positive and hopefully it will not be too long before stadiums are sold out again.