Football is back in our lives – just not as we know it.
From empty stadiums to artificial crowd noises, the beautiful game may have lost some of its shine due to COVID-19 but fans across the country haven’t cared one bit, according to new research.
For some, this weekend marked the very first time they haven’t watched their team alongside thousands of others in the stands.
And with a new normal to contend with, supporters found new ways to watch and share the highs and lows that football has to offer.
All Premier League and Championship teams in England have now returned to action, with record-breaking coverage across Sky Sports, BT Sport and the BBC allowing fans to take in every moment.
With pubs and stadiums still closed to the public, free-to-view options meant that even more could tune in at home, with the Merseyside derby between Everton and league leaders Liverpool among the games available for all to see on Sky Sports’ free Pick channel.
The BBC also revelled in their own slice of history, with Saturday evening’s game between Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, their first top-flight contest since the Premier League’s inception in 1992.
And with fans unable to join friends for the big game, research from Smart Energy GB showed that 46 per cent of them said they relied on technology more than usual in an attempt to recreate a good viewing atmosphere.
On average, each fan used two devices while watching a game – with some 45 per cent of the 2,000 people surveyed taking in the action on a wide-screen TV.
Away from the box, Zoom calls have become all the rage for families, friends and colleagues keeping in touch during lockdown – and football fans were no different, with one in six supporters using video calls to debate the game as it took place.
Sheffield United’s ‘goal’ that wasn’t given against Aston Villa in the opening fixture would have certainly had fans raging, with almost one in three keeping in touch with their fellow fans over the phone to discuss the key moments.
For a quarter of fans, putting on the kettle for a good old cuppa was a staple part of their viewing experience – while nearly one in ten switched on the blender for a Premier League-inspired cocktail for their refreshment of choice.
But it’s not all about those who do want to watch the game, with 22 per cent electing to watch TV in another room while 16 per cent streamed Netflix on a laptop instead.
Games consoles, DIY, baking and mowing the lawn also proved popular alternatives – proving that not everyone was over the moon with football’s return to centre stage.
With people spending more time at home due to lockdown, energy consumption is unsurprisingly on the up with one in five respondents admitting they were a little worried about their increased usage.
But being able to monitor energy use with a smart meter installed by individual energy suppliers, it’s not all doom and gloom in the bid to tighten the purse strings.
Better still, credit can be checked and topped up remotely thanks to a smart prepay tariff – allowing customers with a prepay meter to stay on the sofa and remain glued to the match.
“The Premier League is finally back and although fans are unable to enter stadiums, every game is available to view on television, which brings about a greater reliance on TVs, laptops and smart devices as people try to recreate that matchday atmosphere you get nowhere else but on the terraces,” said Smart Energy GB’s Robert Cheesewright.
“Increased energy use during the COVID crisis has meant an increase in bills for many households, but there is a simple way to stay in control and that is by getting a smart meter installed.
“In a time where people are using more energy at home than usual, even when watching the football, it’s important to keep an eye on your consumption.
“Not only do smart meters allow you to see your energy use in near real time so you can manage it more easily, they are helping to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and integrate more renewable power into our electricity system.
“So, while you’re cheering on your beloved team to victory, and messaging your friends about that last-minute overhead kick equaliser, your smart meter will make sure your energy usage lasts way beyond the final whistle.”