First Touch

Football Without Fans Is Suffering

The ongoing pandemic has left English football at a crossroads and probably never more divided between the haves and the have nots.

arsenal players celebrating
By Dave Bowler 

With the bulk of League One and Two clubs not having played since March, and with plenty more time ahead of them still stuck on the sidelines, their plight, collectively and individually looks grim. The hope has been that delay might allow them to play in front of fans, but that looks an increasingly forlorn hope, not least because it’s virtually all or nothing for them.

Open a stadium in Carlisle, Mansfield or Rochdale and just let in, say 30% capacity and it’s going to cost more money than they can bring in just to open the stands, bring in stewards, policing etc. Add to that the probability that they will not be selling drinks, possibly not food on site and that corporate hospitality, if there is any, will be just a shadow of what it was and you have a recipe for piling disaster on top of catastrophe. Those clubs will need all the help they can get from the fans and the wider “football family”. So it’ll just be their fans then…

Premier League

For Premier League clubs, and much of the Championship too, it’s a different story. Because where for the lower league clubs, there’s a symbiotic relationship, they need each other, the events of the last few months have shown something very different at the top end if the game.

A couple of months of watching football in empty stadia has made it very apparent that without fans, this game dies. Without fans there is no spectacle, no atmosphere, it affects the intensity of performances. Without fans, football is a ghost game.

So for the first time in an age, the fans hold the whip hand – if they want to use it. It’s time they did because for too long, they’ve allowed their addiction to their club to be exploited. Because here’s the truth. Your football club really doesn’t care about you. For the most part, it doesn’t even like you, because there you are in the stadium, booing the players when they lose, asking where the money’s gone after another lousy transfer window, gumming up social media with demands to sack the manager or the board.

They think you are a bloody nuisance, they hate you, but love your money, which is why they rip you off year after year, exploiting your loyalty by bringing out three more new shirts and by charging ticket prices that would get you into the warmth and comfort of a cinema two or three times over.

Empty Stadia

But now, the tables are turned. Because if you don’t go back, the game is up. Empty stadia stink. Full stadia make a compelling show in which your noise is as important as the centre-forward who is getting £150,000 a week. Do movie companies charge the supporting actors for turning up to the shoot? No. The clubs ought to be paying you for your attendance, your participation, but in the inevitable absence of that, ticket prices should fall through the floor.

And if they don’t, fans should get together and remind the clubs what a lousy, unwatchable show they’ve been putting on for the TV cameras these last couple of months…

magic of the fa cupDave Bowler is the author of “The Magic of the Cup 1973/74”, telling the story of Liverpool’s FA Cup win in 1974. Available here: – 

Scroll to Top