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The FST and COVID-19

19th April 2020

Johnny Haynes stand

During the lockdown, some members of the Fulham Supporters Trust board are giving their thoughts on Fulham, the current situation with football and what they are missing most during the crisis. First up, it’s Trust secretary Gerry Pimm.

AMID this unprecedented, unique and frankly grimmest of times, there is little doubt that the Fulham family would have been affected in many ways. Be it through being infected themselves or knowing family and friends who have been either infected and/or affected. Or even through isolation where visits for the likes of Mother’s Day, Easter and birthdays have been curtailed. It is a time like no other. Football, of course, pales into insignificance when faced with such devastating and catastrophic circumstances and yet it can help get spirits up as people take to isolation by trying to distract from the moment and find solace in history and memories. It has given time for people to catch up with the jam-packed TOOFIF book and other books rolled out by the likes of Messrs. Plumb, Coton, Turner and Thompson.

One can wonder what will happen with the season now? It’s all guesswork of course.  Rumours persist that the EPL want the season to end in a behind closed door blitz (how handy for the media darlings Liverpool) BUT want no relegation. Of course, this would not go down well with the front runners in the EFL who are eyeing up / need the money; we, of course, being very much in that mix.  There are a plethora of options – just promote the top two as are now (making us the biggest losers) or mirror the EPL and play a similar blitz behind closed doors for example. But then you have to consider all sorts of blockers such as getting the players fit again, the availability of staff, medical priorities, contracts, loans etc. Or indeed expunge the season’s results completely and start again. The authorities seem paralysed in making decisions in truly unparalleled times. And actually does it really matter? Well yes, but as long as in context.  The show must eventually go on.

People miss football. And there has been a lot of reminiscing and intuitive thinking to try and keep the game and its endearing appeal forefront in our minds whilst we cannot watch live sport. One daily topic on the infamous Fulham forum “TIFF” nudges us to explore the grey matter and evoke memorable moments from the straightforward “favourite player” through to “the most scared you have been at a game” and all sorts of themes in between. It is a time to chew over memories. Twitter threads ask you who were your most influential footballers when growing up and other such topical sharing of your past. Photos are brought out, shared and memories re-ignited. Even the BBC are at it producing programmes such as looking back on old FA Cup classic matches and World cup tournaments. And yes they even delve into the forgotten football ‘BPL’ (before the premier league). The good old days perhaps an older generation might feel. 

WhatsApp discussions are rampant on all sorts of subjects/memories and many of them Fulham related and also include compassion and offers of help where required.  The Fulham family remains united. The video apps such as Houseparty and Zoom allow an excuse for a beer and discussion. The official site has done its bit, replaying full highlights of key (happy!) games and running a Fulham quiz. The podcasts continue to talk and throw out discussions. Ironically, perhaps we are less isolated than we were before in terms of regular communication. Whilst the virus can tear at the fabric and soul of our society it cannot take away the chat and the memories.

There is little doubt that the fraternity is missed as much as the football and a longing for a beer with mates pre and post-Fulham is forever bubbling beneath the surface. Some are lost souls without their routine of the matchday, some are more reflective on the fact that perhaps it’s not the be-all and end-all and conceivably not missing it as much. 

The majority I suggest sit in various forms of isolation and think they will never take anything for granted again. Wishful thinking perhaps as one day normality will surely return and we will slip back into our old ways. Or will we? Will this time of reflection strike a chord and a step-change in humanity. Brexit – remember Brexit? – now seems a mere pinprick in a tumultuous World. And yet remember the anger that spawned the falling out of families and friends over what now seems a trivial irrelevance. Is it now time to appreciate what you have, seize each day and live each moment as if it’s like your last? It is certainly a time to respect those on the front-line – the brilliant NHS workers of course. But also those keeping a fragile society ticking along and not imploding – from binmen, to shop workers, to delivery drivers and many other selfless individuals. We salute you all.

As contemplation endures, will the previous ever-growing social media anger, the online abuse and indeed, in football terms, the getting wound up by the odd bad result or performance subside? Will people begin to think the unthinkable and adopt the once dismissive tone of partners and the non-sporty types which was always frowned upon: ‘It’s only a game’. Not to mention we will surely face a recession or worse post virus days. Jobs will be lost (if not already), priorities will change.

Will we begin to see a more ‘genuine’ game where the money is not always the be-all and end-all. Will the crazy money stop? It seems inevitable that a number of clubs will need a reality check if they are to survive at all. I imagine we will see a number of “AFC” clubs formed as previous proud clubs crumble and fall, the debt finally overcome by a societal game-changer.

For sure, 2020 will be looked back as an annus horribilis whatever happens from here on in. It will also I am sure be looked back on as the year football had to change. For better or for worse.

Stay safe and l look forward to seeing you back at the Cottage and on our travels when we are back and running. A pre-match pint will never taste so sweet.

At the time this article was written, the UK was on lockdown due to COVID-19 with c. 800 deaths a day and no official end of lockdown in sight. April 10th 2020.

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