Behind closed doors

With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, life changed for the majority of people across the country. With a country-wide lockdown enforced, self-isolating from family and friends, the general public needed a pick-me-up from the government. This was football.

When the country was forced into lockdown, it wasn’t a surprise to see sporting events cancelled across the country. Something that put the sporting world into chaos, with jobs on the line and time running out for events to be played.

The return of football came with many changes to the game we all know. A limit on the number of staff in the stadiums meant fans were unable to return to watch their favourite teams, having to instead rely on TV and streams.

As a working sports photographer, I was able to be one of the few allowed into football to witness what football looks like during a pandemic.

Barnsley attack towards the empty School End stadium at Queens Park Rangers' Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.

The Barnsley substitutes watch on from the stand during their match against Queens Park Rangers. Due to social distancing rules, substitutes had to watch the game from the stands.

Although social distancing rules didn't stop Queens Park Rangers hugging in celebration of Conor Masterson goal against Millwall.

And it didn't stop Matt Smith of Millwall celebrating his goal against Queens Park Rangers by high fiving Jón Dadi Bödvarsson.

While defending a Queens Park Rangers corner, the Sheffield Wednesday players prove it is impossible to enforce the social distancing rules during the actual game. Players need to be close to each other to defend their goal.

The gameplay remains the same despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Here, Eberechi Eze of Queens Park Rangers chases after Alex Mowatt of Barnsley.

Fourth official Sam Purkiss stands between the two benches at Queens Park Rangers match against Barnsley. While management and players are not required to wear face masks. The fourth official is required due to their close proximity to the playing staff.

With the return of football after a long unexpected break players struggled with injuries. Queens Park Rangers' Conor Masterson received treatment in the second half of their first match of the restart against Barnsley.

With the restrictions on the number of staff allowed into the stadiums, the typical ball boys and girls were missing. Staff weren't allowed to touch the balls that went out of play. Instead using towels to pick up the ball to clean before returning them to the players.

Like the rest of the country, football remembers the effort of NHS workers. To show appreciation they displayed "Thank You NHS" symbols around the stadium and on their shirts.

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© 2020 by Mental Magazine