As match-day going Villa fans start to get their heads around watching their beloved team from the comfort of the armchair, I thought it was an appropriate time for some fan reflection on what we’re about to experience.
I have been going to Villa Park for over 30 years, the vast majority of them I have been a season ticket holder for. I had a two season break when my first child was born as I couldn’t commit the time or the money for that period of my life as, believe it or not, some things are more important than football!
I’ll always remember the first game I missed at Villa Park. It was against Newcastle and we won 2-0. I had a weird feeling in my stomach all week knowing I wasn’t going to be at Villa Park to watch my team. On the day, which was a Sunday if I remember rightly, that feeling got weirder, I felt like I’d lost an arm or something, I genuinely didn’t know what to do with myself!
Now what we are about to experience is definitely not through choice and completely out of our control so the feelings are obviously different, but there will be fans that will be missing their first Villa game home and away for longer than I’ve been alive! During that time, they will have missed weddings, christenings, family celebrations and alike for the love of their club. I wonder how they are feeling at this point?
It’s an unprecedented and unique situation we find ourselves in. Football without fans does not sit well with me. However, at the same time if it is safe to do so we must finish the season, so there are no easy answers here.
Situations like Liverpool’s, where they will have fans that have attended all or the vast majority of games since their last league championship 30 years ago and now, they will have to witness their long-awaited title win like it’s a game on FIFA. Imagine a club like Newcastle, Norwich or Sheffield United get to the FA Cup final, those fans will have waited decades or more to see their team at Wembley in such an affair. I wonder how fans will react to it?
Of course, the match-day experience will change for everyone. Not everyone is lucky enough to attend matches regularly or even want to. But I wonder how appealing a live TV game with no atmosphere or passion generated within the stadium will be? Is this not what the attraction of football is to everyone whether in attendance or not? I was intrigued as to how they were getting on in the Bundesliga so tuned in for the first weekend, and I lasted 5 minutes. It’s not for me. I’m sure the starvation of football for many will mean people tune in initially in their millions. I know I’ll be watching all the Villa games but I’m not sure yet as to the rest of them.
Who knows currently how long fans will be locked out of grounds for, but what we do know it’s definitely for the rest of the season. I just hope that moving forward the match day going fan is appreciated a little more.
We all know that in the Premier League, gate money receipts contributes to a small proportion of income for the clubs and the TV deals provide the bulk of the money. But will it be appealing for the average fan to tune in every week to an empty stadium, especially as you can’t recreate some of that atmosphere in pub environments? After time, possibly less so,
Therefore, if this lockdown is prolonged what does this mean for the game we love? One thing I do hope for is the match-day going fan is appreciated more to what they bring to their club on the pitch, off the pitch and also the contribution made to the experience of the TV viewer. This should start with a blanket maximum £20 ticket price for both home and away fans, because match-day going fans are integral to everything in football that we love whether we’re at the game or not, as the next few weeks will prove.
I thought this video from the BBC summed it up perfectly: