March 9, 2020 was the last game that involved fans watching their team live. The match was Leicester City vs Aston Villa and resulted in a 4-0 victory for The Foxes.
Who would have thought though that it would have taken until December to see fans to witness competitive sports in some of the lands most famous stadiums again?
Well, if you’re a supporter of a team living in COVID-19 Tier One or Two areas some fans will be able to watch their side live for the first time in almost nine months. This means 51 of the 104 clubs across the Premier League, EFL and Women’s Super League able to host a maximum of 2,000 supporters.
Which teams can have fans in stadiums again?
This means good news for Premier League’s London clubs: Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Fulham. While also on the list are South Coast clubs Southampton and Brighton as well as the Premier League Champions Liverpool and their rivals Everton.
The other ten sides in the top flight, however, will have to wait to welcome back supporters. Being in Tier three areas such as Manchester and Yorkshire they will continue to play games behind closed doors. This means: Manchester United, Manchester City, Burnley, Sheffield United, Leeds United and Newcastle United . While midlands clubs Leicester City, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton and West Brom will also have to play games without their fans.
In addition, away fans from tier three areas will be unable to travel to games in tier two stadiums.
Indeed, on Thursday Arsenal will have the honour of being the first English team to play a competitive match, a Europa League tie against Austrian side Rapid Vienna. Being in a Tier 2 area, the Gunners will be able to play in front of 2,000 of their own supporters for the first time in nearly nine months.
Unsurprisingly, however, the 2,000 tickets were sold out within 20 minutes of going on sale. The first Premier League games, meanwhile, to take place in front of fans are set to be West Ham United’s encounter with Manchester United and Chelsea’s home game with Leeds United.
Will allowing supporters in certain grounds be fair?
The awkward question remains. Will having supporters back in certain grounds affect the outcome of the match?
Crystal Palace Manager and former England Coach, Roy Hodgson said:
“It will make a bit of a difference at Selhurst Park than it will do at some other stadiums, where the capacity is so much higher.
“But I don’t think it is a question really of what difference the fans are going to make, I think it is more of how nice it is going to be for those fans who are selected to be one of those who gets a ticket to see a match live again.”
While Fulham boss Scott Parker said:
“It’s a breath of fresh air, it’s what we all want. It’s what the fans want and what we want as a team.”
Understandably not everyone is in agreement. Leeds United Manager Marcelo Bielsa, whose side falls into the category of a tier three area, meaning supporters will have to wait a little longer to see their side live, said:
“It shouldn’t be about the category, or the consequences of being in a category, it should be about trying to maintain the competition as equal as possible with things that are controllable.
“I am just looking at common sense, which perhaps doesn’t go. The presence of fans has an effect on the results.”
Boton Wanders boss Ian Evatt, whose side play in League One and will also have to continue playing without the support of fans in stadiums, said:
“Without getting into a big political debate I just cannot believe the way (it has gone). For me, we’re a country and we should all be together, regardless. It should be one for all and all for one.”
What do you think?
It must come, therefore, as no surprise to see the football world split down the middle following this government announcement. There certainly is a compelling case for both arguments, on the one hand watching football without fans in the stadiums is not the same as stated by former Manchester United Manager, Sir Matt Busby.
Busby was once famously quoted as saying:
“Football is nothing without fans.”
There is, however, the legitimate question of fairness and equal competition when it comes to competitive sport. How do you create a level playing field?
Personally, however, I can’t wait to see to see fans bring the atmosphere and magic back to the sport again, no matter whom they support!
Feel free to share your views in the comments below.