In yesterday’s Twitter browsing, I came across people speculating that Liverpool may clinch its first title in 30 years in front of an empty stadium. Thus far, the only tangible effect coronavirus has had on the Premier League is that players are no longer shaking hands. But I don’t expect it to stay that way for long. Teams have already been told to develop plans for playing matches without fans. Forbidding fans over 70 from attending matches has also been floated as a possibility. The BBC has put together a primer on the practicalities of closing stadiums that I recommend checking out.
I am woefully unqualified to discuss the merits of the decision to close stadiums, postpone matches, or whatever other options might be under consideration from a public health perspective. I’ll leave that to the experts. And it goes without saying that I hope that concern for the health and well-being of all people is put well before ANY other consideration in the calculus.
What I am qualified to discuss is the “sports fan” implications of that possible decision. Here’s the short version: it would suck. I think winning the title but not being able to celebrate it would lessen the feeling. Let’s face it — unless the season is cancelled altogether and they decide not to award the trophy, Liverpool is going to win the league.
For fans, a major part of winning the title is celebrating it as a community. You want to be in the stadium or at your regular pub. You want to hug your mates and share way too many beers. You want to be at the parade decked out from head-to-toe in team regalia. You’ve shared your frustration as a community for years. You’d want to share the jubilation too. It’s looking increasingly like they won’t be able to do that, at least not right away.
That’s not to say it would be ruined. I’m sure Liverpool fans would still rejoice in a title and whenever health officials gave the all-clear, they’d celebrate properly. But I think I feel bad for them, even if I don’t particularly like them as a group. It’s the sports fan in me — everybody who supports a side other than Tottenham should have some happiness every now and again.
Then again, what’s another couple months after waiting for 30 years?