Robbie Neilson reckons Scottish football won’t truly come back to life until fans return to stadiums.
The Dundee United boss is preparing to begin pre-season training next week, ahead of a projected August Premiership kick-off.
Matches will take place behind closed doors for the foreseeable future, with the SPFL reaching a landmark agreement with Sky Sports to offer virtual season tickets to locked-out fans.
But while Neilson is looking forward to United’s assault on the top flight, he is not relishing the prospect of mounting it in front of empty stands.
“When will we get fans back in the gates? I don’t know,” said the Tangerines boss.
“When you don’t have fans at the game it just affects everything really.
“For me, football is about the fans. If you don’t have the fans then it purely becomes a business.
“I don’t remember playing in many [closed door games] off the top of my head.
“There were a few low-key friendlies but I don’t think I have played in closed door games.
“It is difficult because there are no atmospheres in these games. It is a bit false and I am not a fan of it but, if needs must, and some games have to be played like that then so be it.
“For me, it just becomes a business rather than proper football where you have the fans there and you have that intensity and enjoyment. It is going to be difficult without fans.”
Football has restarted successfully in Germany behind closed doors, where games without fans are known as “geisterspiele” – ghost games.
For Neilson, the Germans’ terminology is typically precise.
He said: “Yes, I have watched [the Bundesliga]. The majority of games have been a bit false and you can hear every shout.
“It was a bit better with the Dortmund game (vs Bayern Munich, when broadcasters layered fake crowd noises over the action) because they had some of the sounds of the fans and it helped improve the intensity on the field.
“But you are never going to be able to replace playing in a full house, that atmosphere and intensity you get.
“The sooner we get back to that better.”
With the new season set to resume before fans are cleared to return, the presentation of the Championship trophy will undoubtedly rear its head.
The presence of fans normally lends a party atmosphere to such ceremonies.
Should the SPFL decide to hand over the trophy on flag day, Neilson reckons it will diminish the occasion.
However, he insists United players and fans will celebrate together as soon as possible.
“It will be great when it comes,” said Neilson.
“It has been strange for the fans, players and staff.
“We have been in the Championship for four years and there has been all the hurt and pain of lost play-offs and penalty shoot-outs and then you when you get over the line you don’t get that moment to celebrate.
“We hope we can do that but we just need to wait and see.
“We want the fans there because they bring the enjoyment and intensity to it.
“We had the Zoom party with the players when we won it but hopefully we will still be able to all get together and celebrate when it is safe to do so.”