How UK football clubs have survived during the pandemic

UK football club
"English Premier League" by USTIN TALLIS/AFP is licensed under CC BY 3.0

How UK football clubs have survived during the pandemic

We have now been living with the coronavirus pandemic for over a year. COVID-19 has changed just about every aspect of our daily lives, from the initial lockdowns to the social distancing measures in place after the world re-opened.

It has been particularly hard on the business world, including entertainment, cinemas and theatres, sports bars, and the best online sportsbook gambling apps. There’s been no escape.

Fans have been shut out

Sports fans can relate. Although the most popular events, including English Premier League football, have gone ahead, they’ve been behind closed doors. The turnstiles at many clubs have been jammed. That had more of an impact on smaller clubs, those without the millions in TV contracts and TV deals. Teams without the billionaire owners. How have they survived the pandemic? It’s not been easy, that’s for sure.

In this article, we look at some of the ways the smaller clubs in the United Kingdom have kept their heads above water. How did a Non-League side from England or a part-time team from the Scottish League One stay active without the income brought by those paying at the gate and packing the terraces?

We’ve seen some intriguing ideas over the last 12 months and some errors that proved football is out of touch with the ordinary fan. Some of the changes made to the business side of running a small football club may last longer than the pandemic that caused them.

Season ticket sales

Many football clubs would have crumbled without season ticket sales, but they could offer supporters what was sold as a virtual season pass. This was a pass for the entire campaign that meant if fans were unable to get into stadiums and cheer on the team, they could do so from the comfort of their own home. This was through exclusive live TV coverage and live streaming on desktop computers and mobile apps. Far from ideal, of course, but not much is in these trying times.

This worked exceptionally well for teams that don’t usually have their matches broadcast live on TV. Smaller clubs set up their own coverage and made it available online to fans worldwide. On purchase of your season ticket, you’d be given login details to the live stream channel. On matchday, it was a simple case of logging into your account and watching the play.

The live coverage was backed up by expert commentary from current and former players, coaches and celebrities connected to the club. The attraction of this is fans could watch their teams perform, cheering them on from home, knowing they were contributing to the running of the club and helping secure its long-term future.

As well as season tickets, the live streaming of games was also sold on a game-by-game basis. This is a feature of lockdown that is expected to remain going forward. It gives fans from abroad a chance to keep up, and those who would otherwise miss the game, perhaps due to work commitments on a Saturday afternoon, could enjoy the next best thing. There has been talk of the coverage extending to training and even events like the player of the year awards.

“English Football Match” by AP is licensed under CC BY 3.0  

Banners and cardboard cut-outs

One of the strangest ideas pushed by clubs during lockdown was the banners and cardboard cut-outs. This gave season ticket holders and other fans the chance to place their favourite banner or message in the stands to encourage the players. It was meant to show supporters were present in mind if not body. It did make a few football clubs some much-needed income, but it’s unlikely to hang around much longer.

Supporters not satisfied with simply draping a banner and supportive message over the seats wanted to be a face in the crowd. How did they achieve that when mass gatherings were banned? By purchasing life-size cardboard cut-outs of themselves. Obviously.

These props were placed around the stadium and were often caught on the TV cameras, much to the delight of those who had bought into the idea. Some featured the faces of supporters, their children or loved ones, and some fans went for the comedy angle. Times were hard. Football Clubs needed income, and we all needed a reason to smile.

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