What It Means To Be A Football Fan During A Pandemic

As the final games are being played of the 2020/21 season the end of the season will mark a full season without fans being allowed into grounds to see their favourite teams play. Fans across the country have had their pre-match routine adapted and changed to suit the new way fans have to watch their teams play.

Pay per view passes and virtual season tickets have taken the place of pay at the gate tickets and sitting in your favourite stand with your friends, with Scottish football playing in a previously unknown style.

Long gone are the trips up to Dingwall on a supporters bus rushing to make a weeknight game with a 7:45 kick off and the post-match celebratory pints after games. Instead your celebrations are limited to drinking over Zoom or Tweeting your thoughts about the game the same way you would air your frustrations in the pub. Here is how fans of Scottish clubs celebrate the new match day.

Aberdeen Supporter Ritchie McLeod

“The match day experience for me is a lot more boring nowadays. Instead of doing my 15 minute walk down to Pittodrie I simply walk from my bedroom to the living room. The pre-match feeling of watching the stadium fill, getting a pie, chanting songs with my dad/mates has been removed. Now I just slump onto the sofa almost in silence for 2 hours. Atmosphere removed, which was a favourite part of my match day experience.

“Match day is less time consuming now which is a positive in some respect however I enjoyed spending an entire day at the football as it’s what I enjoy.”

Football fans Matthew Blaney and his father Andrew Blaney in Italy before Celtic played Lazio in 2019

“For home matches during the pandemic season, our normal ritual of gathering in the pub along with other supporters couldn’t be done. For league matches our new ritual has been logging into what Celtic call the ‘Pass to Paradise’ which acts as our season ticket, bringing the games live to the television with club legends commentating and providing pre & post match entertainment, alongside players and the management team.

“One benefit to the Pass to Paradise is that you can enjoy home comforts whilst watching games like having a beer during the game and sitting on the sofa and without what can be a long commute to games in traffic.

“The down sides to this season, obviously missing the team playing and winning in person, missing out on history as the team secured a 4th treble in a row. The macaroni pie was a miss alongside the company of the family of fans around you. There’s a couple who sit behind us and they always have a chat and tell us stories of what it was like going to games before we were born! The full match day experience just isn’t the same without the atmosphere of fans around you, all cheering the team on – quite possibly Celtics biggest downfall of the whole season. The fans inside Celtic Park are known as the 12th man. Hopefully we can be back again soon and enjoy watching our beloved teams play.”

Rangers supporter Jay Blakeway outside Ibrox on a match day

““It is often said that football without fans is nothing, and this season has highlighted just how important supporters are to their respective clubs.

“The same applies the other way around: fans need to see their favourites play, and the lack of opportunities to do so on television, never mind in stadiums, was a bitter blow for many during the early stages of the pandemic.

“Now, one year on, football is back on our screens.

“We may not be able to make our ritual journeys to the ground, buy a matchday programme or tuck into a pie from the kiosk, but having some form of footballing normality back has been a blessing – especially if you are a supporter of Rangers Football Club.

“Going into this season, we knew that our city rivals were potentially 38 league games away from Scottish football’s Holy Grail, Ten-in-a-Row.

“However, if Steven Gerrard‘s men were successful, Rangers would secure a world record 55th league title, our first in ten long, painful years.

“The boys in blue did not disappoint.

“Celtic’s Ten is dead – buried in outstanding fashion as we sit at the time of writing 20 points clear, crowned champions in early March, and are favourites to lift the Scottish Cup.

“We may not have been able to see our heroes in the flesh this season, but the love we have for our club, the passion every true supporter feels for the team of their forefathers, has never wavered.

“With more and more positive news surrounding the easing of Covid restrictions, I look forward to returning to Ibrox next season to cheer on the champions.”

Surprise I’m a Motherwell fan if you couldn’t tell already

As much as I typically like to keep myself separate from the articles I release when it came to this subject I deemed it an exception.

Match days for me used to start at 11pm. Breakfast would be made by my dad and there would be Motherwell songs playing throughout the house as we got ready to travel to Fir Park.
I attended home games with my dad regularly and only missed three home games between January 2019-March 2020. We would park at the housing area behind ASDA in Motherwell and would do what I called the ‘death run’ across the two main roads that ran through Airbles past the car dealerships into Hamilton.

We would then walk up Fir Park street to the turnstiles of the Phil O’Donnell stand 45 minutes before kick off because my dad would insist we got there early so we could sit in our favourite section of the stand as we didn’t have season tickets at the time. We even had our own tradition of getting a picture together before the match to keep track of all the different games we attended each season.

Saturday’s for me weren’t complete without the football and although this season we’re watching from home that feeling remains. Admittedly there is some benefits in being a season ticket holder this season for the first time since I was a young girl such as saving money on travel and tickets costs which allows us to have the money spare to purchase PPV passes from other clubs on away days, watching from home means you can have a drink while watching the game (I tend to stay sober since watching football is my career now) and you have the comfort of your own couch.

That being said however, I would much rather be sitting in Fir Park on the infamous yellow bucket seats watching the Steelmen play while burning my tongue on their 1000 degree hot chocolates. Missing out on watching the boys play during their European campaign was highly disappointing, especially during their Coleraine and Glentoran games. Now Motherwell have progressed to the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup I wouldn’t be surprised if they got to the final while fans can’t be inside stadiums as it would be just like Motherwell to have a European tour and successful cup run while fans aren’t allowed in.

Unfortunately many of our match day traditions have fizzled out. I no longer excitedly put my makeup on or do my hair or even get my pre-match picture with my dad before we watch the games unless it’s a really big one due to a feeling of sadness. Despite the club’s and our own best efforts a stream is nothing in comparison to being involved in the action at Fir Park. I never realised before now how much I took Fir Park and the football for granted before this season.

As talks of fans being allowed into Hampden to watch the Euros in June increases with some luck fans will be able to get back into the stands next season. No fans being in has impacted clubs in ways people wouldn’t have imagined and during times like these it has become increasingly more important that you get behind and support your team.

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