Football Without Fans Is Nothing. Until It’s Everything.

When we say, then, that games are being staged for the benefit of television, what we mean is that games are being staged for the benefit of fans (most of whom) can only watch on television. Television is an abstract term, designed to obscure and stigmatize.

For most fans, and for all but a minuscule percentage for the major teams, it is the only way to consume soccer. It is also, of course, what keeps the whole thing rolling: those eye-watering television deals are only possible because of the subscriptions the broadcasters can raise, because of the advertising they can sell, because of the money that comes, at root, from fans.

Staging games behind closed doors is not ideal. It is not what anyone wants. It is, for want of a better term, worse than when the stands are full of noise and color, when there is unbridled joy at one end and unyielding despair at the other. But we are not in an ideal world these days. All we have are unpalatable choices.

There are many obstacles to overcome, yet, before soccer can return. It must be determined that it is safe for the players to train, and then to play. It must be decided that it will not place an unnecessary burden on an overstretched state. No game is worth a single life.

But having fans in place, in the stadium, should not be the bar. Football without fans is nothing. For now, though, those fans may have to be further away than they would like. It is, sadly, a sacrifice that has to be made.

The alternative to a few months of watching sports in the uncanny valley, after all, is bleaker still. The economic consequences of waiting for a perfect world are such that, by the time fans are allowed back into the stadiums, there may be nobody there on the field to watch.

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