The impact of empty stadiums on football: Are fans really what football is all about

first_imgSir Matt Busby, a generational footballer & manager, famously said, “Football is nothing without the fans.” Never did anyone even remotely related to the game think that they would have to find it out for themselves one day.The unpredictable and unprecedented nature of this pandemic has had a significant impact on not just our lives, life patterns, and the socio-economic culture but also on the most-watched sport in the world.There was a time, not too long ago, when Anfield (Liverpool’s stadium) or Santiago Bernabeu (Real Madrid’s Stadium) would be bustling with deafening chants, whistles & hoots during the elimination stages of champions league matches. However, today the viewers can hear the individual calls by players during these games. The defining silence during these crucial football matches has been a testament to the ‘new normal’ & has undoubtedly transformed spectators’ viewing experiences immensely.But has the lack of fans in stadiums just affected our experience in viewing the games, or has it had more profound ramifications on the game itself? Data Analysis of football matches from the past four months (since Football started again) has revealed some interesting insights into the impact of empty stadiums on the game.For teams across Europe, the home win percentage has dropped from 45% to a staggering 33%, virtually negating the home-field advantage and raising the question of whether the fans themselves are the home advantage? This fall has coincided with a sharp drop in the average goals per game, from 1.74 to 1.43. A significant reason it is at 1.43 and not lower is almost certainly the 8-2 hammering of Barcelona by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals. The number of shots per match has declined by 10%, and so has the quality of shots & surprisingly, without the home-crowd pressure, home teams have penalized more than before.Tactically speaking, the absence of crowds has bumped up the average passes made by a player by up to 16 per game, and they have begun opting for more tactical passes rather than fancy moves, leading to much more engaging & technically competitive matches.It is safe to assume that the game we have all grown to love and recognize has undoubtedly changed, maybe forever, as is the case with almost all sports. However, for the game that has continued for over a century in the same manner, for the game that is defined not just by brilliant athletes on the pitch but also by the stands’ vocal supporters, Sir Matt Busy’s words will forever hold: “Football is nothing without the fans.”last_img