The novel Corona virus pandemic has forced all the sporting events to either get fully suspended or they’d be played behind closed doors. Indian government has already issued an advisory asking the future sporting events in India to pick either of the two options. The sports ministry also told that it can not cancel any tournaments as such but they (Sports authorities) will have to ensure there is no public gathering as COVID-19 virus can be transferred from person to person in such conditions.
Due to the advisory, BCCI has decided to play next 2 matches of the India vs South Africa series in empty stadiums. The ongoing match between Australia and New Zealand in Sydney is also being played behind closed doors and it is highly likely that the upcoming season of IPL which now will start from 15th April as per the decision taken by the IPL governing council too would be played under similar circumstances.
Even though Cricket hasn’t witnessed too many forced empty stadium matches, IPL won’t be the first tournament to be played behind closed doors. In this article, we take a look at some other sporting events or particular matches which were played in empty stadiums due to one reason or the other.
India vs Pakistan Test Match in 1999, Kolkata
If you’re looking for one combination of both best and worst fans to attend a cricket match, then Kolkata crowd would definitely come on top in your search results. They can be termed as probably the most passionate cricket lovers in India but at several occasions, their passion has turned into maniac, chaos and passive aggression when things haven’t gone their way.
This instance is from the infamous Kolkata Test played between India and Pakistan in 1999. To this point, many believe that the crowd’s vicious behaviour was because of Sachin Tendulkar’s run out after colliding with Shoaib Akhtar which is only partly true. It was the inaugural Test of the first Asian Test Championship and the Kolkata crowd had made an impressive record of attending a Test match.
The enthusiastic crowd had come to watch their heroes against their arch rivals and Sachin was one of those heroes. He was bowled on duck by Shoaib Akhtar in the first inning but picture was still left, as they were expecting. In second inning, when it looked like an easy 3 runs, Sachin collided with Akhtar to get run out on 9. Who was at fault depends upon your perspective and a section of Kolkata crowd didn’t have a very sporting perspective about it. They started calling Shoaib ‘ Cheat, Cheat ‘ and threw bottles at him when he was fielding in the deep. The crowd behaved only when Sachin with then CAB (Cricket Association of Bengal) president Jagmohan Dalmiya pleaded to maintain peace.
But it was momentary. When their local hero Sourav Ganguly got dismissed as 9th wicket on the final day, the crowd again tried to disrupt the match hoping they’d not let Pakistan take the final wicket and win the game in their backyard. They turned violent leading to which the match was halted for 3 hours as the police had only one job – Empty the stadium. The iconic Eden Garden was turned into a simple concrete bowl with only 200 journalists allowed to watch the game. Pakistan took the final wicket within 10 balls since the resumption.
Primera Mexico Clausura, 2009
Often matches have been played in empty stadiums as punishment for the bad behaviors from the fans of either sides but it wasn’t the case this time. Like the Corona Virus Outbreak at the moment, the world was facing H1N1 Swine flu outbreak 11 years ago and several parts of Mexico were badly affected by this virus which led to the decision of playing penultimate round of league games of the competition without any crowd.
Just for a little backdrop, Mexico Clausura is the primary football competition of Mexico.
La Liga, 2017-18
La Liga is Spain’s top most football competition and it has got a lot of followers in India, including me. In recent times, it has been in news not just for Football but also for some other off field controversies. The tournament had to tackle one such issue back in the 2017 season when the violence in Catalonia region disrupted the harmony and caused Football Club Barcelona to play one of their home games in front of no crowd.
Barcelona had first requested La Liga authority to postpone the match which was subsequently denied with a warning of cutting 6 hard earned points. Eventually, they had to play the match behind closed doors so that their home fans don’t get physically harmed amidst the chaos. They beaten Las Palmas 3-0 in that game.
Heineken Cup, 2010
Heineken Cup is an European Rugby tournament and it was the 2010 season of the competition that a natural hazard caused a pool match being played behind the Doors. Heavy snowfall in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland made the sure the match scheduled between Scottish side Edinburgh and French side Castres was postponed for one day but to ensure the safety of the fans who had to drive their way through to the stadium under such extreme weather conditions, the organizers decided to play this particular match without any crowd.
Serie A, 2007
It isn’t the first time that the matches of Italian football competition, Serie A is being played without allowing any crowd. When in 2007 the tournament was subjected to something like this, Corona Virus wasn’t the reason. The Italian Football Federation had suspended the season for a brief period because of the killing of a police personnel and the unrest which followed after. After a while, it was decided to play the remaining matches in an empty stadium. A couple of seasons late, renowned club Juventus had to play a home match without any crowd after their fans had racially abused Mario Balotelli during another match.
Special mention : Pakistan Super League, 2016
One can also mention PSL when it comes to talking about matches or tournaments played without any crowd. Not that anyone was barred from entering the stadium at that point but people showed very little interest to travel to the stadium and watch PSL season 1 in UAE. Most of the matches were played without any audience, but not behind closed doors.