By David Robson
Fans will be allowed back into grounds and venues across multiple sports in England from the start of December, and it could be a life saver for some clubs and livelihoods.
This comes after a Government announcement which insisted only areas in tier one and two will see changes in this. The maximum for an outdoor ground like rugby and football stadiums is 4000 people and that is for those in a tier one scenario. The maximum for those in tier two is 2000 people.
The Darts and Snooker associations both released statements saying they will be welcoming fans back to the World Championship and Masters respectively. The maximum for both events is only 1000 – particularly because they are both indoors.
Much to the anger of some Scots, Nicola Sturgeon insists that Scotland are in no fit shape to change measures and allow this risk from brewing in Scotland. With the central belt currently under tier four restrictions, there is no reason to suggest this will change any time soon, and fans will still have to watch from home.
Despite this disappointment, it is still a good sign that fans are being welcomed down south.
According to a report and survey taken by Binder Dijker Otte (BDO), 45% of clubs in England claimed that they were ‘In need of attention’ financially due to the impact COVID-19 has had. The Deloitte annual review of 2020 showed clubs’ main source of income from competing in the Championship in England. The report highlighted that their main source of revenue (54%) comes from broadcasts. 25% comes from commercial and 21% is match day revenue. However, as you venture further down the leagues to League 1 and 2, their broadcast and commercial revenue importance will decrease, whereas their reliance on match-day income becomes extremely important.
The clubs in the Premier league and Championship will not notice much of a difference, whereas this could be a life saver for the smaller clubs.
Not only does it help the clubs survive this unprecedented time, but it will also benefit the general public in terms of mental health. Millions of people across the globe rely on Sport and attending these events to get them through difficult times.
Grant McGinley who is a football fan from Glasgow insists that he has found life difficult since he can’t go to games and support his team because it was always the most exciting part of his week. He said: “It’s just such a day out. I’ll meet up with my pals beforehand and we’d either go to one another’s house or to a pub for a few drinks. Even just the trip to and from the football is such an event and nothing can compare to it. It’s been a long time without it now and I never thought I could last this long – but I need it back as soon as possible.”
He is not the only one who thinks this way as Scott Young also agrees.
While it is easy to sympathize with McGinley and Young as we all feel the struggles they are going through, it is understandable why stadiums aren’t open yet due to McGinley’s comments. This is not only the fact that Glasgow is in tier four and COVID-19 cases are still high.
McGinley not only wants to go to games, but he is also expecting a whole day out and that is a major issue. He would not be the only one, thousands would be flocking to one another’s house or to the pub prior to the game and then would travel by public transport or another method – meaning more places are visited and people coming into contact. It’s not as simple as just opening the stadiums and that is it.
And while England has introduced it, that does not mean that everyone involved is on board with it.
Snooker world number 10, Ding Junhui blasted the Snooker authorities for allowing fans into the Masters in January. The 33-year-old suggested that the decision was made with only money in mind and doesn’t believe it is safe for them to do so. The China number one insists that it is too soon and because of this announcement, he is unsure whether he is going to compete in the tournament.
There are clear positives and obvious worrying downsides as well. While it will be beneficial for sports fans and clubs, there needs to be an element of caution involved. Fans must continue to be vigilant and stay safe once it has been introduced. Only then will it continue and then perhaps can go onto the next stage and allow more in.
Scotland will be disappointed that they are missing out, but they should look to England for inspiration. There are those who continue to exploit the regulations in place and that is one of the reasons the country is still in the shape it is.
If we all rally forward as a nation and try and tackle COVID-19 to bring the cases down, then in months to come we might be looking at a similar situation and announcement. Our clubs need it to survive and our fans need it too.