Sport without fans?

With the announcement of a lot of sports looking to start up again fans are of course overjoyed.  The absence of live sport has left more than a bit of a hole in all our lives. 

The rituals of inviting your mates’ round, getting the food and beers in, or arranging to meet at the pub for pre-game beers, you know what I am talking about!

Attending these events in person is an even bigger experience.  Getting the tickets, arranging to meet, who’s responsible for the train beers, shall we stop for a swift one on route, the inevitable queues… but then you head in and it is glorious… everybody there for the same thing.

Over the next few weeks and months, it is going to look and feel very different – for us as fans and also for the athletes.  Any one that has taken part in a sporting event before will know what it feels like as you cross that finish line, or the final whistle blows – how wonderful it is to have people celebrating with you on your achievements.   Surely professional athletes get energy from the crowd, celebrate with them and take solace with them.. what is it going to feel like for them?   

Our Director of Client Services, Gary Whelan (BIG Sports fan) gives his thoughts on what this might look like

“To me, sport without fans is taking the soul out of the game – we have all watched ‘behind closed doors’ football matches, when one of the teams has been disciplined for some misdemeanour and been forced to play their home games without fans. The stadium echo’s, the game loses its spectacle, the emotion of the match is stripped away. Whether it is tribal chanting, reactions to near misses or cheers of ‘heave’ as a rugby team pushes for the try line, it’s the fans which bring the sporting competition to life and make it an occasion.

Imagine the putt to win the Ryder Cup taking place in front of any empty grandstand, imagine the ashes being played out in front of an empty Lord’s – it’s just not the same for the players and those watching on TV or listening on the radio.

It is those ‘I was there moments’ that people brag about to their mates for years to come.

Digital access to sport has its benefits – it’s seen by a wider audience, fans don’t miss out on the major moments, teams and competitions benefit from the money involved and people are able to engage with sports they may never have considered attending in a live forum. But you never get the butterflies in the stomach or that sense of occasion, quite like being there in the flesh. 

Humans as a species need community, shared experiences and a genuine connection. For millions of people, that game on a Saturday or that global competition which happens every four years, is a rite of passage – season ticket holder for life, travelling the globe to support your favourite team or athlete, sharing your experiences with friends and family and re living the memories for years.

My first memory of attending a major sporting event was when I was 11 and my Dad managed to get tickets to see Russia vs Germany at Old Trafford during Euro 96. The whole country was overcome by football fever and tickets to any match were like gold dust. As a Spurs fan, it was amazing to watch Jurgen Klinsmann score twice and just be in a stadium full of 60,000 passionate fans. It is something I will never forget, and it inspired me to attend sporting events across the globe since. In 2006, me and 3 friends took my 1972 VW Campervan and drove to Germany, following the England team across the country throughout the World Cup – although we didn’t get tickets to any matches, the cities, fanzones and screenings outside of the stadium were an amazing experience, with fans from nations across the globe coming together for a shared passion.

Watching sport on television will give us a little ‘fix’ that we all miss at the moment, but it is certainly not a replacement for being there in person.”