Soccer without fans is a different game

Without spectators, the home advantage loses most of its sense

COVID-19 brought all kinds of new protocols and season rearrangements to sports leagues and associations. One of the most drastic changes for those resuming their season amidst the pandemic might be the absence of fans in the stands.

Head coach of both Concordia Stingers soccer teams Greg Sutton said players always want to do well, and having fans to watch them play makes players push themselves harder.

“I think when you add family, friends, or even students in the stands, players want to impress [more],” Sutton said. “It’s only natural, as they simply want to do well in front of others. It makes a difference for sure. It’s also an extra motivation when times are a little bit more challenging.”

Sutton added that he thinks teams playing in front of their own fans have a better chance to win, and that’s something that will never change.

“Let’s think about an important game at the end of a season, in which you know you need the victory,” Sutton said. “You want that big intimidating crowd on your side, not against you. It can be difficult to play visiting stadiums with loud crowds. There’s no such thing as the home crowd advantage. Even if you’re playing in your own stadium, it’s much less of an advantage without fans.”

Concerning the experience of playing inside what we call the “bubble,” which asks team members to avoid contact with anyone outside their team, Sutton said the challenge of playing without fans is even greater for first-year players.

“It’s a lot about the young players, who haven’t really had that experience of playing in front of fans at that level,” Sutton said. “First-year players playing their first games with their team this year … are yet to experience a game with fans of that magnitude. It would be more challenging for them, but of course also for the senior players because it’s much more enjoyable to play in front of your fans.”

Sutton said that playing well in such circumstances also depends on your professional experience. He explained that players who have been on professional teams for long enough understand the level it takes to be successful on a regular basis, even if this time they’re not playing in regular conditions. For the head coach, it’s imperative to find that extra motivation when there’s no fans.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam

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