David Hannant: Football behind closed doors? Give me a break - just end it

PUBLISHED: 18:00 29 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:11 30 April 2020

An empty Carrow Road. Picture: James Bass

An empty Carrow Road. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2008

Other than an extremely tongue-in-cheek list of suggestions for how to end the season filed a month or so ago, I’ve stayed relatively quiet on matters of the here and now in these pages.

However, as talk of bringing back the Premier League behind closed doors begin to gather pace, I feel it’s now or never when it comes to chiming in.

Now, in my time as a Norwich City fan I’ve seen some pretty bad ideas executed.

Appointing Glenn Roeder as manager, that’s one.

Playing Steven Whittaker in the centre of midfield, there’s another.

Letting VAR get so intricate that it measures hairlines in offside decisions involving Teemu Pukki. Really bad idea.

However, playing football matches behind closed doors outdoes every single one of these as far as bad ideas go.

As far as I am concerned, football without the fans is like weeknights at teatime on BBC One - pointless.

Some reports have suggested that the government is pushing for this option ‘to lift spirits’.

Frankly, anybody who thinks football without a crowd will lift spirits has clearly never watched football in their lives – or at least has never been a football fan.

Yes, of course watching the beautiful game being played beautifully is a joy, but without the crowd it’s nowhere near the same. Not one iota.

This week marks a year since City gained promotion back to the Premier League.

Think back to Mario Vrancic’s 97th-minute free-kick to clinch a vital point at home to Sheffield Wednesday.

Without a crowd, would it still have been a perfectly executed worldy of a free-kick that David Beckham himself would have been proud of? Of course.

However, had it been in front of an empty stadium, would it have been as much of a moment? Not for me, it wouldn’t.

Or that thunderbolt from the same sacred left foot against Blackburn? Again, it would be a beauty to behold, but not a joy to have experienced.

Rewinding the clock to some other promotions – that Portsmouth game under Paul Lambert. I enjoyed that, surrounded by other fans, at a pub in the city.

Admittedly, I don’t recall too much of the evening, but it was the feeling of unity that made it, the roar when the final whistle went and the partying with it.

In 2004, promotion was sealed without City kicking a ball, as Sunderland crashed to a 3-0 defeat against Palace – the outcome was the same but I didn’t feel nearly the same emotion.

And that to me is what football behind closed doors would feel like. Even if things continue and City stay up, I won’t feel the same jubilation as I would had everything been normal and the great escape happened.

Being a football fan is about the emotion, about feeling like part of a crowd and about togetherness.

Sitting at home alone watching games played in empty stadiums is not my idea of fun. I’d rather watch a rerun of the play-off final 10 times than fresh games behind closed doors – no matter how starved of the game I am.

And as for the notion of lifting spirits – have you ever had a friend promise to give you a ring or send you a video from that concert you were desperate to go to but didn’t quite manage to get tickets for?

They’re there, experiencing the show, and you pick up the receiver and can just about make out the crackly remnants of what might be your favourite song.

That is how watching a football match with an empty stadium would feel like to me.

It wouldn’t lift my spirits because football is back – it would just serve as a stark reminder of the situation we are in and the fact I’m not there.

There are only a select few groups of people that would benefit from the Premier League resuming behind closed doors.

Television companies would benefit. Bookies would benefit. But would the real people in the game, the fans? I say no.

Already the Dutch league has admitted defeat in hopes of reviving the season and as much as it pains me, the English leagues should follow suit.

And without the slightest hint of bias, if that means Norwich City are given a get out jail free card from the relegation dog fight then so be it.

In fact, I would rather City start next season with a six-point deduction to reflect the current gap from safety than the season resume behind closed doors.

It is clear the footballing world is going to have to be creative to get back up and running in the current climate, but isolating the most important people in the game for the sake of rushing back is 100pc not the answer. I’d rather have no football than no fans.

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