So fourteen weeks on from when we should have played Huddersfield it’s coming back – rightly or wrongly Wigan Athletic will return to competitive football. I’ve been clear throughout this that I didn’t think football should return, it feels wrong to consider football in this context when there are still thousands losing their lives each week.
But I also understand the difficulty football clubs, at all levels of the pyramid find themselves in. Football clubs are there to play football matches and if football clubs don’t play matches for as long as this pandemic may be with us there won’t be many who will survive. It feels far too early but as the Bundesliga returned it was only a matter of time before the Premier League followed suit, and as a result the Championship.
I would have been more than happy for the season to finish as it was and us look ahead to the 2020/21 season in whatever shape or form that takes but instead we now re-start a season that for all intents and purposes felt like it finished with the draw against Luton in March. As the phrase goes, we are where we are.
It’s difficult to get excited about something you can’t actively be involved in, football is a form of community culture – what many of us enjoy about it is wholly separate to the 90 minutes on the pitch. It’s the friendships often formed over many seasons that transpire what actually goes on on the pitch. It’s meeting your friends every Saturday afternoon, going for a beer and being united in a common passion for your side.
I think Latics have made the best of a very bad situation, three options were presented to Latics season ticket holders over the last week. A) To take a pro-rata refund, B) To add that refund amount to your ticketing account for future purposes or C) Donate the amount to the club in favour of a streaming pass for the last nine games of the season.
There’s a recognition at Latics of how difficult this situation has been for many who may have lost their jobs or indeed their income as part of the Covid-19 pandemic. There’s also an understanding of how different a streaming pass is when compared to actually going to the matches. The two are never comparable and those who may not want to watch the season conclusion in this way have been catered for.
So I think the response from Latics I think has been wholly generous, when compared with other clubs including Blackburn and Sunderland who haven’t even offered refunds to season ticket holders. I exchanged my season ticket for a streaming pass but there’s no right or wrong in this situation and I can see why many wouldn’t want to watch the season completed in this way.
It will be good to see football back in some form but let us not think this is normal, we’re a long way from being normal and the only semblance of a return to normality will be when we’re all back at the Dave Whelan Stadium once again.
Although it will be good to see football back I can’t get excited over firing up my laptop at 2.50 rather than clicking through the turnstiles at that time. I can’t get excited about shouting at a screen rather than shouting at the referee from the Springfield Stand. It’s just isn’t football. We had a big group of us travelling over to Huddersfield back in March, taking in the ale-trail pre and post-match. I’m afraid sitting on the couch is no meaningful substitute.
So what to the actual football? Does it matter? No not really, in the grand scheme of things football doesn’t matter. What will the difference be of us staying in the Championship or heading down to League One if we as Wiganers can’t go to watch our team every week?
We’ve been to League One before of course, it doesn’t hold any fears for us indeed for many it’s a preferable experience to the Championship. You win more than you lose and some of the away days are fantastic but still despite all of that I want us to stay up for a myriad of reasons. The financial hits to clubs are going to be stark over the next few seasons. Once the Furlough scheme winds down over the coming months football clubs will have very difficult decisions to make if supporters aren’t allowed back in to the grounds at that point.
With all of that in mind being in the Championship with the slightly improved financial conditions than in League One would be preferable for me. But also if we think of just how well we were doing before the season was curtailed, it would feel awfully unfair if we ended up going down now. We have to hope that the lads can pick up where they left off and get the points needed to make sure we stay up.
Whatever happens football doesn’t really matter but it may provide a distraction from the horrific and un-certain times in which we live.
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