Sport without supporters is like a burger without a bun

Sport without supporters is like a burger without a bun
Liverpool supporter, Max Ellis watches the English Premier League merseyside derby match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park from a Drive In Theatre showing the game on Sky TV at the RDS Arena. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

IF we ever questioned just how important supporters are to football matches, watching the Premier League these last 10 days will tell you the answer. 

After months of being starved of live football, watching games again is better than nothing but that doesn’t mean those matches have been entertaining. 

In truth, the return of English football to our screens has been dull and that’s mainly due to the fact that there are no supporters at the grounds to create an atmosphere. Football without supporters is like a burger without the bun. You’ve got your main ingredient but without the proper surroundings, its never going to be as good.

I always knew that the fans were the heartbeat of any club. They are the people that always go that extra mile to make sure that the club survives and would do anything for it. 

The financial contribution supporters make to a club was never underestimated but I think the contribution fans make to a match day experience has been underestimated, after witnessing the last ten days of the Premier League. 

Every game seems the same, whether it’s Everton and Liverpool or Aston Villa and Sheffield United, they are all as boring as each other. The Merseyside Derby summed up what games have been like without supporters. A derby which should be full of action, commitment and intensity but instead seems like a friendly. 

That match could be still playing right now and players would still be strolling around the pitch happily going through the motions. Was there much point in resuming the Premier League when it seems the players involved cannot wait for the season to end.

Supporters don’t only just create an atmosphere in the ground for players but in the lead up to the game and after it. Players love driving to games seeing supporters making their way to the stadium or gathering outside of a bar. Its scenes like that that motivate a player and get them focused on a game. 

It must be very difficult for players to motivate themselves driving to a game now, when all they see is other players and members of staff with their facemasks on. It must make a player think more about avoiding contracting Covid-19 rather than being focused on the game.

As the saying goes ‘you don’t know what you had until it’s gone’ and playing without supporters at matches will make players appreciate fans more when they return. As much as fans go on the chat rooms and moan about players, players do like to complain about supporters. 

Fans want to see their team win every game and believe that the majority of the time the players are winning matches for the fans but if players are being honesty, they care very little about winning games for supporters. 

They are doing it for the win bonuses, their teammates and for themselves, fans are a long way down on a player’s list when it comes to why they want to win football matches but that might change after this.

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne battle for the ball with Burnley's Dwight McNeil (left) during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne battle for the ball with Burnley's Dwight McNeil (left) during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium.

Of course, there are positive for players not having fans attending matches. Some players thrive under pressure from supporters but many crumble. A lot of players can’t handle the abuse they receive from fans during matches and might becoming better players without fans at games.

Players will laugh and joke about getting abuse from the crowd but deep down it does affect them. Some players prefer playing away matches rather than home games because they will escape the verbal abuse.

Players won’t have to try their best to avoid fans after matches they have lost because they will be no one waiting for them outside the stadium. Players will no longer have to worry about fans waiting outside of their car and will feel much safer.

As viewers of English football, we are used to see the Kop end at Anfield bouncing and witnessing some amazing scenes of thousands of supporters holding their scarfs above their heads singing with passion and pride. Watching Liverpool and Crystal Palace, with an empty Kop just didn’t feel right and football is not as enjoyable with an empty stadium.

I never thought the idea of artificial crowd noises would be a good idea but it makes matches easier to watch. Having some sort of crowd noise has made games much more bearable. I tried watching a game without the fake crowd noises but found myself drifting to sleep within a matter of minutes. 

These last 10 days have changed my mind. In the past, I thought football could survive without fans but games aren’t enjoyable without supporters and football is nothing if it doesn’t have fans.

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