Top-flight sport Bundeslig resumed behind closed doors this weekend. But without the audience, it isn’t the same
The German premier football league, the Bundesliga, the first major sports league in the world to open up after the Coronavirus pandemic if one discounts Korean baseball and some other smaller leagues, played its first games this weekend in two months since the virus struck the world. The games were entertaining, a lot of goals were scored and the celebrations were properly socially distanced with a few exceptions here and there when the excitement of scoring a goal made players forget the times we are in. Some players were not able to follow the guidelines or contain themselves after scoring. Yet, while the return of the top-flight sport is welcome and it might help other leagues across the world formulate their plans for a return, the fact of the matter is that without crowds, sports is not the same. Take the game at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park for example, where the famous “yellow wall” is a place where tens and thousands of supporters jumping up and down in unison lend the stadium an atmosphere that makes it hostile to visiting teams. Watching that game in an empty park felt wrong.
While empty stands might make little or no difference to Test Cricket matches, where audience numbers have been a challenge for years, save the occasional game at Kolkata, sports without live audiences is not on. While ticket receipts from stadia account for a diminishing proportion of sales as television revenues keep climbing, the fact is that even television viewers missed the crowds. Without the ambient noise and the sudden excitement when a goal is scored or a six is hit, how can sports be fun even to the television viewer? Yes, we are living in incredible times where things will take time to adjust and maybe smaller crowds will be a fact of life but it seems strange. The fact is that the return of major sports is a sign of normalisation and people need that comfort. The new “normal” may be a much-abused term now but if the new normal of sports will be so soulless, is it worth it?
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)