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Online matches are the way to go to support SPL and EFL

David Thomson August 2, 2020
Online matches are the way to go to support SPL and EFL
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

As we enter August, usually we would start to look forward to the start of the new football season.

The qualification rounds for both Europa League and Champions League would have been well underway by now with the group stages starting in September. In the next week or two would have been the FA Community Shield take place at Wembley with an aim to the start of the English Premier League season the following week.

However, 2020 has anything but ordinary because of the covid-19 pandemic resulting. The 2019-20 season was either postponed or cancelled back in March. The English Premier League restarted the season in mid-June which finished last weekend, with the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea took place this weekend at Wembley.

Screenshot, all rights St Mirren FC.

However, regular service has resumed in Scotland with the start of the 2020-2021 Scottish Premier League (SPL).

After the Scottish football authorities decided to cancel the 2019-2020 season back in March, the 12 clubs have been preparing to start the new season in front of empty stadiums as a result of social distancing measures being brought in by the Scottish government.  

Unlike the English Premiership where all the games were shown on TV, only some of the Scottish matches will be exclusively shown on Sky Sports.

Resulting in a majority of the SPL matches will be played behind closed doors. Clubs have provided a paid streaming service via the home clubs website to allow fans to follow their team.

Online matches will allow the clubs to make some money that they would have lost by not having fans in the ground.

Screenshot, all rights St Mirren FC.

It would also give the idea for those clubs in the English Football League (EFL) to implement the games online when the new season starts on 12 September behind closed doors.

As someone who has missed going to live sporting events since lock-down, I took advantage of this when on Saturday, when I watched St Mirren play Livingston at St Mirren Park via the club’s streaming service.

The service went live on Friday evening on the club’s website to allow fans to buy tickets. After a few technical problems and questions about whether I have access to the match, I settle to watch the game.

Or so I thought, but when the match started there were problems with the stream of the game.

It was difficult to hear from the commentary team of Daniel Bowers and former St Mirren player David Van Zanten on-air as they were sound issues. Also, during the first half, they were problems with the site kept crashing.

They have been a few complaints from fans as they took to Twitter to voice they anger at the club about what has happened.

To credit to St Mirren, not only they kept everyone updated, but they managed to solve the technical issues by half time.

Once you look over the technical problems, the coverage was good. It is what you would expect from watching a match on BT Sport or Sky Sports.

Presented by GO Radio’s Ali De Foy – who happens to be a St Mirren fan – she had the clubs chief executive, Tony Fitzpatrick and club captain Kyle Magennis on air to give their pre-match thoughts. 

Both Bowers and Van Zanden were insightful at half time, and full-time coverage in their analysis and biased view of the match as the coverage was aim at the St Mirren fans.

Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

While watching the match, the one thing I missed was the crowd noise while watching football on the TV. If you watch the English Premier League and the German football on TV, they always had an option of crowd noise, but there was no option while watching on the streaming service.

However, the only crowd noise I heard during the match came from Ali De Foy shouting “C’mon the Buddies” – St Mirren’s nickname – during the first half. 

Online matches will never be the same as the real experience. I miss the atmosphere of the crowds and banter between fans.

As we enter August, Scottish fans would have gone almost five months without seeing their teams in action in the ground after 2019-2020 season finished early. The only way that fans can support their local teams is to view the matches via the clubs’ streaming sites.

Once any technical problems have been ironed out, I can only see that the SPL and EFL will benefit by showing online matches as it gives their loyal fans a chance to support their team.  

Otherwise, those clubs would face severe financial trouble and possibly go to the wall.

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