AFL Round Table: Is footy without the crowds still worth watching?

Our AFL experts have compiled a rapid reaction to the first game played behind closed doors. Will it work for 153 games?

Is footy without fans still worth watching?

Niall Seewang: Definitely. It was strange, yes, but for hungry footy fans it was much better than nothing. The sport is about the contest, not fans' reactions, while viewers at home still got to watch the games and distract themselves from current events.

And I actually liked hearing the players taking and instructing so clearly like you do at lower levels... it's not an ideal situation but it's much better than having no footy at all!

Jake Michaels: Fans don't necessarily improve the on-field action but boy do they add to the overall spectacle of the game! Having no spectators was as bizarre as everyone expected, although I don't believe the game suffered because of it.

If anything, you could make the case the quality of this year's season-opener was better than most Round 1 games from 2019! I'll be watching footy, with or without fans, but I still believe the AFL should shut everything down for the time being.

Matt Walsh: Yep, lacklustre first half from the Blues aside, it was easy to not notice the lack of fans in the stands when the passages of play were as good as they were at times. Sure, it's weird not hearing Richmond supporters screaming "YELLOW AND BLACK", and it's unnatural not to hear "BAAALLLLL" but at the end of the day it's footy.

The lack of atmosphere might be off-putting if you were at the ground, where poorer sight lines and lack of crowd involvement would be detrimental to the experience, but watching on TV, you're still up close to the action, and the action on Thursday night was pretty good, all things considered.

Footy is going to be played in these uncertain times -- for how long, no one knows -- so let's all make the most of it and enjoy the skills, which are still as good as ever, crowd or no crowd.

Jesse Robinson: In times of such uncertainty, the joy of being back in some form of normality made the footy more than worth watching.

There were times when the lack of crowd was confusing, and seeing the ball go tumbling into rows of empty seats was like something out of a Sheffield Shield match, but overall the contest was as fierce as ever. Despite a lack of tackling effort in the first half from Carlton, the standard of footy was high for Round 1 and the lack of crowds may somehow be the solution to the goal kicking woes of the league in recent years.

Overall footy is still worth watching, but there's no doubt after last night that the crowds are what makes sport great, and while we'll take whatever we can get at this stage, the league and the clubs are going to learn a lot about what makes the AFL and sporting world tick.

Stuart Randall: Honestly, I'm not sure. I'm not as hardcore an AFL fan as you guys, but I love the game, and the occasion and the atmosphere and understand and enjoy AFL. Last night was straight out weird - and of course I understand why we're here - but I found myself drifting off to my phone at various points, as the soundtrack was so strange and the natural ebbs and flows you get just weren't there..

Flicking to the NRL, it didn't feel as odd, probably due to a better camera angle which shows no stands, and also you are unfortunately more used to fewer fans in cavernous venues in rugby league. The natural flow of the ref calling the tackle count didn't feel as strange as the constant whistles and echoing player calls we heard at The G.

The jarring thing I found was that as a TV product, it severely lacked what makes the sport's great, the passion, the colour, the emotion. I'm fascinated how poor teams will be able to keep the energy up when things are against them. I hope that once this is all over, administrators remember what it was like with no fans, and consider them a little more carefully in the future.