Monday 16 March 2020 8:51 pm

Coronavirus and sport: A guide to filling the void left by the cancellation of live fixtures

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. For many, sport is a steady, reassuring constant – something around which life revolves.  

Plans are made to accommodate it, socialising takes place alongside it, vast amounts of money is spent facilitating it, almost every hobby is connected to it, weekends are often entirely consumed by it. But now it’s gone.

When faced with a pandemic of the seriousness of coronavirus, sport naturally fades into insignificance, but its absence is felt nonetheless. 

Some will feel the loss more than others – Liverpool fans waiting on, and worrying over, the confirmation of a first top-flight title in 30 years are likely to have different feelings to someone whose side are comfortably in mid-table, for example. But no matter what, there is still a hole to fill.

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For the foreseeable future there will be no Premier League to get swept up in, no Test cricket to follow intermittently, no Six Nations to shout at in the pub, and no tennis or golf to settle down on the sofa to watch.

Fortunately, there are always alternatives. 

Nostalgia 

The first and most obvious fix is whatever the sports broadcasters are showing instead of the postponed live sport. 

Sky Sports and BT Sport have not announced any plans to refund customers for the lost live content but are pumping out some nostalgia-worthy programming to try and sate appetites.

As anyone who has ever browsed Sky Sports during the hours not populated by live football will attest, Premier League Years can easily hook in a viewer at a loose end. The programme covers whole campaigns with broad brush strokes, showing the most memorable goals, games and moments, hopefully stirring memories or throwing up unseen or forgotten classics along the way.

Matt Le Tissier of Southampton
Treat yourself to some cracking goals from the scorer of some of the Premier League’s best (via Getty Images)

In place of live games, broadcasters have also taken to showing old matches in full. While the outcome may be inconsequential and the viewing experience slightly odd, there is plenty of satisfaction to be had from watching Alan Shearer wheel away with his right arm aloft. 

If nostalgia is your bag then needless to say YouTube is a treasure trove. From quickfire favourites like “Matt Le Tissier – Magical Goals”, “Wilkinson’s breathtaking drop goal – RWC final 2003” and “England Win CWC After Super Over!” to full-length classics like “Matchday Live – 1986 Argentina v England” or “The Ashes 2005 Complete”, the internet has got you covered. 

Fifth Test: England v Australia - Day Four
Simpler times (via Getty Images)

YouTube’s back catalogue is extensive, but if you want to level up there are also resources like Footballia.net, a video library which allows you to watch historic matches in full. 

You may not feel the need for such an alternative yet, but the longer the postponement continues the more appealing it may become. Before you know it the 2019 Classic Tetris World Championships, a hot dog eating contest, or even niche YouTube sensation Sand Marble Rally, could make their way into your weekly entertainment schedule.

Management 

We are only at the start of what looks likely to be either a sport-less, or a sport-light, period and one option has already emerged as a fan-favourite.   

On Sunday, with Tottenham v Manchester United not on, thousands of people turned elsewhere for their football. According to its makers, Football Manager 20 saw nearly 90,000 people simultaneously logged on via online platform Steam, setting a new record for the popular game.

General Views of Sport Venues after events postponed due to Covid-19
Pretend to be a football manager from the comfort of home (via Getty Images)

If there was ever a game made to take your mind off the outside world and chew up time it is Football Manager. Once you’ve delved deep, every player becomes all too familiar and every detail all-consuming. 

Whether you rekindle an old save on its predecessor Championship Manager, or join the masses on the latest version, Football Manager is a sure-fire way to keep football front and centre in your life. Be warned, though: it is highly addictive.

Not your thing? You could follow Leyton Orient’s example and turn instead to Fifa’s Ultimate Team. Using the hashtag #UltimateQuaranTeam the east London side have set up a 64-team knockout tournament between football clubs in a move to entertain followers on social media.

Sport on film

There are other ways to consume sport. Thanks to user Adrian5156 you can choose between 100 football documentaries on Reddit, including ESPN’s 30 for 30 series and the John Still swear-a-thon Orient: Club For a Fiver, or head to a streaming service for more mainstream options.

Diego Maradona of Napoli SSC
Diego Maradona is the subject of a brilliant film you should watch (via Getty Images)

For football fans, Amazon Prime has Manchester City series All Or Nothing and The Class of 92 about rivals United’s fabled generation, as well as poignant cricket film The Edge and new series The Test, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at Australia’s attempts to come back from the ball-tampering scandal in 2018.

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Netflix, meanwhile, is predictably stacked with options, from first-hand doping film Icarus to documentaries about Sir Alex Ferguson and Bobby Robson. Channel 4 also have a well-timed release in the pipeline, with biographical film Diego Maradona, about his time at Napoli, due to be broadcast at 9pm on Saturday. 

Once you’ve worked your way through all of the above you can test your sports knowledge using the endless depths of quiz website Sporcle, which range from satisfyingly easy to impossibly obscure. 

You may be stuck inside, but at least sport has not completely abandoned you in these testing times.

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