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Football 1 – Coronavirus 0: The impact of no football on fans of the beautiful game

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Published on 27 April 2020

Empty football stadiums
Empty football stadiums

Dr Paul Davis is Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Sport at the University of Sunderland and an expert in football fandom.

Here he looks at the impact of professional football being postponed across the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic.


“We should all realise by now that football fans are highly diverse in their outlooks, characters, intellects, wealth, and relationship with the game.

“Therefore, there are no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the impact of professional football cancellations due to the current pandemic.

“There is likely to be, at one extreme, those who are finding cessation horrific, who are binging on footage and who will plunge back into the routine with the zeal of the proselyte.

“At the other extreme is likely to be a socially aware, self-aware and self-actualising type, who might find in the current moratorium a platform for consideration of their relationship with the game.

“These people may be asking themselves ‘is it too important to me? Are my moods too affected by how my team does? Does it take up too much of my time and money?’

“This type might also be reflecting with sharpened focus and deepened solemnity on the game’s economic, social and political scaffolding. Some in this category might try to redefine their relationship with the game and their team(s).

“The same fans, however, are likely to be experienced in fandom’s seductive qualities, and will therefore be no more surprised than any of their family or friends if it is ‘as-you-were’ within a month or two of resumption.

“Most fans probably do not fit snugly into either of the preceding categories. There are probably few who will not reflect to any degree on the social, cultural, economic, political and personal issues arising from cessation.

“The conclusions and resolutions reached, again, will be as diverse as fans themselves. Some fans, again, will freely discuss such issues with other fans, while others have a more private or selective relationship with football.


"This fan’s prediction, for what it is worth, is that it will be business as usual for football fans soon after resumption.

“While all will realise that their clubs and the game will long negotiate the coronavirus legacy, their own personal and social commerce with football will be largely unaffected.

“Whatever the current reflections and resolutions, it will be the same old psychology and preoccupations, e.g. ‘we need to do something about the left side of midfield’, ‘we can win the cup this year’, ‘I wish he would shut up behind me’ …

“Most fans will look back on the current forced abstinence as older fans would once look back on a fierce winter that caused many postponements and a backlog headache.”