I recently wrote about how the Coronavirus shut down has affected my favorite Arsenal pub near the Emirates, The Tollington Arms. Like most sports bars and restaurants, The Tollington is getting hit with double whammy. Fans have not been allowed to attend live football matches since March plus social distancing rules prevent large groups gathering to watch a game together, so they’re missing out on pre- and post-game revenue and money from people who’d watch matches at the pub.
Sports have come back, but supporters are still prohibited from being in attendance. It’s strange to watch games with the stands totally empty and fake crowd noise playing in the background. Since fans are the lifeblood of every club, I decided to check in with several England based Arsenal ticket holders to see how they are dealing with not being able to see matches in person.
Sam Marchione has been an Arsenal fan since 1963. He is a member of the second oldest Arsenal supporters club in Great Britain, Norfolk Arsenal. He regularly travels with other members of the group to both home and away matches with tickets and bus transport arranged by members. Unfortunately, he and all of Norfolk Arsenal haven’t been able to travel to North London for months.
Marchione feels the loss of being at the stadium but says he has been keeping up with the Gunners as best he can. “I’m very much missing going to support my team; especially having missed out on two trips to Wembley and another FA Cup win.”
Dr. Elmer Ramos Molave from Lincoln has been an Arsenal supporter since watching the 1979 FA Cup when Arsenal defeated Manchester United 3-2.
In an ironic twist, just before coronavirus hit, Molave was contacted by Arsenal and informed that after 15 years on the waiting list, he was now being offered the chance to purchase season tickets. He decided to defer the opportunity until next year and is now glad he waited considering the current state of things.
I asked Molave if he senses that the lack of fans has affected Arsenal.
You can see that the players are concentrating better and have not been distracted by the crowd. They are able to hear Arteta’s multilingual instructions and hold their formations very well.
I think that their performances have improved. As for the fans, the networks in the UK have been showing more Premier League matches live which means that social distancing and self-isolation have become synonymous with football feasting
Molave’s wife Michelle, thinks that Xhaka’s reincarnation has had to do with the absence of the crowd abusing him. She thinks that Ozil will also benefit from the lack of fans, should he ever be brought back into the squad.
I also spoke with a match day steward at the Emirates, who informed me that as a club employee he is not allowed to talk to the media without prior written consent from the club, so he asked to remain anonymous. He is currently on furlough as the games are still being played behind closed doors.
When asked how he feels about the current situation for himself and other Arsenal game day staff he said, “It’s a shame, but the health and safety of the fans and employees at the club need to come first. So I’m happy to wait until it’s definitely safe to go back.”
As for when he expects things will get back to normal, he expressed optimism. “All we can do is continue to be careful, responsible and stay safe. We also have to try and stay positive the best we can and believe we will get back to some sort of normality as soon as possible.”
I think we are all in agreement on this assessment whether we watch the games in person or on television. We all hope that a return to normalcy will be coming soon.