The Premier League kicks off a new world

Few could have imagined a day when Premier League matches would take place in empty stadiums.

But on Wednesday June the 17th 2020, that day has come.

Speak to managers and they talk of 'having to get used to the new normal'. And while that is a perfectly sensible response, it doesn't really paint the true significance of what is about to unfold.

Die hard supporters have often eulogised that football is 'nothing without the fans', and yet, here it is. Not just the 92 Premier League games that remain to be played, but the rest of the Championship campaign and the playoffs for League's One and Two.

Of course fans won't be in the stadiums but they WILL be watching - those who can afford subscriptions to the big sports channels needn't miss a thing.

For others, there will be a handful of free to air games and there's always an option (one which I still regularly turn to), the good old radio.

But watching or listening at home might provide a short term solution for those who live and breathe their sport, but it misses one vital element - community.

Credit: PA
  • Football is all about community

At it's best football brings people of all backgrounds, of all faiths, of all colours together, and as one they cheer their team, and for ninety minutes, they, as one, despise the opposition (and often, alas, the referee).

Now I know that is a rose tinted version of football - I know there are still issues with racism, more at some clubs than others, and I hope more than ever that that will now be tackled once and for all.

But just for this moment, let me dwell on 'football at it's best'.

Credit: PA

Inside our great stadiums communities are forged, friendships made. Outside the grounds local businesses make a living selling burgers, flags and scarves. There's noise, there's singing, you can almost taste the thrill of the big match in the air.

Outside Villa park today, there will be none of that, just the steady rumble of passing traffic. In the stadium there will be music pumping out of the PA system as the teams emerge, but at kick off, that must fall silent.

If Villa score, you would expect the stadium to erupt, instead, at best, you might get a few claps from the bench and one or two other lucky members of staff.

If Sheffield United score, they will be robbed of the pleasure of 'silencing the crowd', as silence is all there will be.

Credit: PA

It's all a bleak picture, but, we all know that right now this is the only way to get the game back.

It matters to tens of thousands of fans, it matters to many businesses, and it matters to the government, football generates vast tax revenues.

Coronavirus has changed all our lives, but when the day comes that we can all flock back into stadiums, perhaps its lasting effect will be to give us all a renewed appreciation of live sport, and indeed of the communities it brings together.