FOOTBALL without fans is nothing. The emotive words of Jock Stein still resonate to this day. Far and wide, as it happens.

A couple of years back when Celtic travelled to Athens on Champions League qualifying duty, the AEK supporters unveiled a banner bearing the mantra amid a cacophony of colour and noise which lent considerable weight to the words of the great man.

As with many of the great football quotations though, as well as possessing more than a grain of truth, there is a fair dollop of hyperbole contained within that appeals to our romantic notions of the beautiful game. Like Bill Shankly's most famous quote, the coronavirus pandemic has shifted our priorities in such a way that these words can even seem faintly ridiculous viewed through our current prism.

So it is that notions such as playing the season out behind closed doors, calling the season early or even proclaiming what has gone before this term as null and void have gone from being barely conceivable a couple of months ago to being the only options on the table.

As is our custom here in Scotland, our path to one of these destinations has been paved with the brand of pettiness, acrimony and naked self-interest that, while not unique to our little corner of the footballing world, is certainly a hallmark of it.

We still haven't definitively arrived at a conclusion either as the ironically named Zoom conferences between the SPFL clubs have so far only kicked the can yet further down the road, but it seems a fait accompli that the Premiership will be called today with runaway leaders Celtic crowned as champions and bottom club Hearts being consigned to the Championship.

Given that the Jambos were just four points from safety with eight games remaining at the time of the shutdown, they are undoubtedly aggrieved at the prospect of such an outcome. Partick Thistle, dumped into League One in even more egregious fashion having been only two points adrift at the bottom of the Championship with a game in hand as the pandemic took hold, are justifiably angered too. Stranraer, with an eight-point deficit to overcome and a game in hand, are also put out.

League reconstruction it seems, despite being previously dismissed, may yet save these clubs from the drop, and prevent a protracted civil and, perhaps, legal war. But with live football returning to our screens over the weekend as the Bundesliga resumed in surreal fashion in empty stadiums, there may be fans of those clubs - and others - who wondered why such an option was deemed impossible in Scotland. Particularly when high profile stars like Celtic captain Scott Brown have expressed their clear preference for trying to fulfil the fixture card.

Indeed, despite those famous words from Stein, the viewing experience didn't leave me feeling entirely cold either. Perhaps it was because we have been so starved of live football that I would have lapped up the return of the Carluke and District Sunday league - and probably had a coupon on it too - but it was enjoyable to witness Borussia Dortmund dismantle Schalke despite some cruel wags on social media likening the atmosphere to a normal matchday at Hamilton. There was something oddly satisfying in fact about the sound of the ball thwacking into the net at the end of another slick Dortmund move, though such novelty factors may soon wear off in lieu of a proper atmosphere.

The truth is the prospect of finishing the season here in similar circumstances was a non-starter. In preparation for the return of the Bundesliga, players, management staff, officials and other personnel have been extensively tested and quarantined at a considerable expense which would have been beyond the means of the majority of our income-starved clubs. But it hasn't taken the diminished spectacle of football in front of empty arenas here to hammer home the peril the SPFL - and the clubs by extension - have blundered into by their handling of this crisis. In fact, empty seats may be the result of it.

The perpetual tit-for-tat that surrounds Scottish football in normal times is entertaining, the cherry-on-top accoutrement to the actual sport itself. But when there is no football taking place, and particularly because of the extraordinary circumstances, the bickering away from the field of play instead comes across as puerile. Where there should be a common cause of simply getting 42 clubs to the other side of the crisis, there is instead bitterness and division.

That's not to say that legitimate concerns about SPFL governance should be swept under the carpet. There are indeed questions to be answered about the vote on the resolution raised by some of the aggrieved clubs listed above, and there were legitimate alarm bells raised in the so-called Rangers dossier around the way the game is run in this country.

The clubs raising these concerns may believe, or at least insist, they are doing so out of some duty above their own obvious self-protection. Their downfall though has been calling for transparency on the one hand while slinging mud with the other.

It makes me wonder how this is all playing out with the average football fan. When Scottish football does return and supporters are once again allowed into grounds to watch, it begs the question over how many of them, watching on with disgust perhaps at this infantile soap opera over the last few weeks, will decide it simply isn’t worth the hassle.