In case you missed it, Bundesliga football is back. Well, kind of.

The Bundesliga made its return on Saturday at 2pm and joining what seemed like most football fans in the UK, I sat down to watch the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04. I also don’t think I was the only one who was a little bit disappointed by the whole affair. The football was good, the atmosphere/viewing experience not so much.

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Mood. #BundesligaIsBack

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Without the fans, football is nothing.

That’s probably a bit of an obvious statement and one we’ve heard time and time again but the return of football behind closed doors has highlighted it once again. We’ve seen football behind closed doors before and it was fine for the one off occasion, it was a bit novel at first but this looks like it might be here for the foreseeable so it’s going to take a little getting used to.

Erling Haaland in action v Schalke
Martin Meissner/Pool via REUTERS

One very obvious point is that it takes away from the atmosphere inside the ground. The one thing that hit me though whilst watching the game was how much the lack of fans in the ground actually took away from the viewing experience sat at home. It was very much like watching a training game, being able to hear every kick and every shout from the players and staff.

I’ve been to a Borussia Dortmund match, I was there at the start of the season for the opening game of the Bundesliga season when they beat FC Augsburg 5-1 and it might be the best match day experience and atmosphere I’ve witnessed so far. I knew it would be good but it was beyond all expectations. It makes the English experience seem incredibly flat and commercial in comparison. Having experienced the atmosphere for myself and seen the yellow wall in all of its glory, seeing the Westfalenstadion empty and silent left me feeling a bit hollow.

The Westfalenstadion, the home of Borussia Dortmund
A full Westfalenstadion. The best football experience I have had so far.

The importance of fans can’t be argued against, not just for the obvious revenue they help produce on a match day but there’s also another point to be added, for the viewing experience. Even sat at home, it just didn’t feel right. Maybe that’s because I’m in the neutral category when it comes to the Bundesliga so I do wonder what it is like when the game you’re watching involves a team you’ve supported your whole life and the outcome is important, will that make it easier to look past the issue of having no fans in the stadium?

The match day atmosphere is part of the reason we go. The walk to the ground with other fans, the smell of the food and drinks, the sounds of formations being discussed, programme and merchandise sellers vying for trade, the chants inside the ground, the arguments about who’s playing well and whether it was a foul or not to the sheer volume of celebration when that ball hits the back of the net, all of this and more makes a match day what it is. When watching on TV, you do kind of get a sense of this so to be watching it in near total silence is odd to say the least.

This posted by Borussia Dortmund after the match was a nice touch and a nice little acknowledgement to their fans.

Fans are the beating heart of any football club. They are its soul and it’s life blood, without fans, football becomes very far removed from what it is truly about. Here’s hoping that this enforced absence of fans from the match day experience brings into perspective for clubs and reinforces the integral role that the fan plays in a football club.

Unfortunately, the Bundesliga won’t be the only league to be played behind closed doors. This is the new normal and for now it is something we’re going to have to get used to. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can all pay a visit to watch our teams.

Would love to hear your thoughts on football returning without fans, drop us a tweet @BehindSportHQ

P.S. How good is Erling Håland?!