While millions of football fans rejoiced at the return of the Bundesliga on Saturday, football wasn’t the only sport to make a comeback.
Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler were the ones involved in a Florida charity golf event on Sunday, while another UFC Fight Night took place in the same US state.
America also saw the return of NASCAR after a 10-week absence, while horse racing continued behind closed doors in France and Hong Kong.
Sport may finally begin to return after shutting down the coronavirus, but new rules, strict security measures and the absence of fans mean it’s very different from what we’re used to.
Here, Sports email elaborates on what we have learned from the sports weekend.
Dustin Johnson (left) and Rory McIlroy (right) took part in the return of golf to Florida on Sunday
FOOTBALL IS NOTHING WITHOUT FANS
Once it was confirmed that the Bundesliga would return without fans, it was clear that the games would be played in a strange atmosphere.
However, it wasn’t until BT Sport’s report of Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke began to appreciate how important the role of supporters really is.
The Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund is normally packed with more than 80,000 people, with the famous Yellow Wall on Erling Haaland and Co.
And while the absence of fans didn’t seem to affect the hosts’ performance, as they had comfortable 4-0 winners over their rivals, the empty stadium was downright creepy.
Football is much more than just the game on the field. It’s about the passion, the noise, the reactions of players and fans. All that was lost over the weekend.
Erling Haaland (left) celebrates in an empty Signal Iduna Park after scoring against Schalke
It must be said that the quality of the football on show – at least from Dortmund – did not seem to be weakened by the forced coronavirus interruption, but that is only one element of the game.
Clubs in Germany – and around the world – need supporters to watch matches from a financial point of view, but it’s just as important for the sport’s reputation and appeal.
Haaland’s opening goal on Saturday should have been greeted with a deafening roar and jubilant scenes in the stands. Instead, we had silence and a strange, socially distant party.
This is necessarily evil if we want the Bundesliga and the other European top leagues to finish the season, but it is clear that every effort should be made to get the fans back into stadiums once it is safe to do so.
Football is simply not football without them.
Clubs could be forced to play behind closed doors for several months by the corona virus
WAVE FANS GET TREATMENT
With the PGA and European Tours, plus the four majors and the Ryder Cup, to keep them entertained, golf fans wouldn’t normally care too much about a four-man charity event on a Sunday.
That was not the case on the weekend, however, as viewers tune in to their first live golf introduction to TaylorMade Driving Relief, a £ 3.3m Skins event featuring Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matt Wolff in 65 days .
The golf calendar has been decimated by the coronavirus crisis, with a number of events – including The Open – canceled and The Masters pushed back later in the year. There is also still uncertainty about the September Ryder Cup.
McIlroy plays out of a bunker during Sunday’s TaylorMade Driving Relief event in Florida
Sunday’s event gave golf-hungry viewers the chance to forget all about the issues and watch four of the world’s top players in a relaxed environment, all while raising money for charity.
Social media was buzzing with anticipation before the event started and it didn’t slow down, with fans thrilled to see McIlroy and Co swing a club again.
All four players carried their own bags for a change, and no fans were allowed on the Florida course, but the fact that the players were able to talk – and rib each other – added another dimension to Sky Sports coverage .
Johnson struggled with his early-stage swing, but there was plenty of excellent golf on display to whet the appetite before the PGA Tour returns behind closed doors next month.
Johnson, McIlroy and Rickie Fowler (left to right) carry their own bags at the Seminole Golf Club
NASCAR OFFERS HOPE ON F1
After 10 weeks without a race, NASCAR returned to Darlington, South Carolina on Sunday.
“Until probably about two or three hours before the race, I was ready for something to go wrong,” admitted Brad Keselowski, who finished thirteenth after the race.
‘What will it be?’ he added. “Is anyone getting sick? Or is someone going to boycott outside the racecourse? But nobody did it. Nothing bad happened. They got this thing done. It feels a bit like a Christmas miracle. ‘
NASCAR has implemented a number of strict rules to ensure the safety of its drivers and personnel, with drivers wearing their own helmets, water bottles and other equipment, and face masks worn by those on the road.
The first NASCAR race since the coronavirus shutdown took place in South Carolina on Sunday
No fans were allowed, but approximately 900 essential employees – including drivers, team members, officials, safety personnel and media – were allowed on site to ensure the race continued as planned.
NASCAR’s successful return will certainly boost Formula 1, which has seen their 2020 season destroyed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Austria will host the first two F1 races in July and although NASCAR is not set up in exactly the same way, the completion of Sunday’s event shows that car races can safely return with social distance and other security measures.
THERE IS NO STOPPING FROM UFC
Despite the corona virus hitting the United States particularly hard, UFC President Dana White is determined to continue with his relentless brand MMA.
The 50-year-old has sparked controversy in recent months with his desperate attempts to get UFC 249 off the ground, discussing everything from a ‘fighting island’ to hosting on an Indian reservation in California.
He finally decided to get back to work in Florida, and on Saturday night he put on his third show behind closed doors within a week.
Alistair Overeem (right) throws a punch during his win over Walt Harris on Saturday night
White emphasizes that UFC is taking all precautions necessary to ensure the safety of their fighters, with coronavirus testing and with minimal on-site personnel at the forefront of its plans.
And while Jacare Souza was withdrawn from his fight at UFC 249 just hours before fighting after his positive test for the disease, that didn’t stop White from continuing his plans.
Whether you agree with what he does or not, White’s fierce determination to keep fighting fans busy should be admired.
READY FOR A VERY DIFFERENT PREMIER LEAGUE
With the Premier League moving forward with Project Restart, the Bundesliga’s return gave us a glimpse of what to expect when top-flight English football resumes.
No handshakes, substitutes parted with masks, socially distant parties and quiet stadiums were just part of the new normal in Germany.
And while broadcasters are looking for ways to improve the atmosphere for Premier League viewers, we have to accept that things will be very different for a while.
Many, if not all, measures in the Bundesliga will be implemented when Liverpool and Co return to action, which is likely to be in the second half of June.
The manager, coaching staff and substitutes of Fortuna Düsseldorf sit separately against Paderborn
The game we love will be distinctly different, with players struggling for end-of-game fitness and passionate celebrations among teammates and fans a thing of the past.
Some football fans have suggested that they will have little interest in watching football until it returns to pre-coronavirus conditions and supporters are allowed back into the grounds to cheer on their teams.
That seems far off at the moment, and Premier League viewers will have to accept a purified version of the game if they want to get their fix quickly.