With games taking place behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, football clubs, executives and enthusiasts everywhere have to think of solutions: how does one recreate an atmosphere with thousands of fans unable to attend matches? How to best engage with fans and spectators? Is it even possible to replace the chants and cheers that typically fill arenas during game day?
These are some of the answers:
Cutouts in Germany’s Bundesliga
As the first major European league gets back into action, Borussia Monchengladbach filled its stands with life-size cutouts of fans.
There were more than 4,500 cutouts installed at Borussia-Park with another 12,000 ordered by the club as it prepares for the resumption of fixtures. Supporters pay around $20 (19 euros) for the cutout with all profits going to local causes, including coronavirus relief efforts.
Zoom in Denmark’s Superliga
As the Superliga season restarts in Denmark amid the coronavirus pandemic, supporters of the third-placed Aarhus will be able to cheer for the team with the help of Zoom.
Fans can still be ‘present’ at the matches in what will be the world’s first ‘virtual football grandstand.’ They are able to partake in the action digitally as their Zoom feed will be displayed on several screens that face the pitch. Fans can apply for free ‘tickets’ – basically the password – and will be allowed to pick a virtual grandstand, with 22 different sections to choose from.
“We are proud to be the first club in the world to use it,” Aarhus chief executive officer Jacob Nielsen said in a statement with The Straits Times. “Now it seems that we have to do without spectators for a while, so maybe we can inspire a similar initiative at other clubs that can also benefit from it.”
Drawings and mannequins in Korea’s K-League
Ansan have taken an unconventional, yet heartwarming step of filling Wa~ stadium with drawings from local school students ahead of the Greeners’#KLeague 2 clash with Suwon today. All games in the division are behind closed doors for the forseeable.@ansanfsc #안산그리너스FC #K리그 pic.twitter.com/8A2gekqnqW
— James Walsh (@WalshJames01) May 16, 2020
On 16 May 2020, Ansan Greeners FC filled the stadium with children’s drawings to support their players and fans during their recent home game against Suwon FC.
Interestingly, FC Seoul decided on a different route as compared to this heartwarming scene. The South Korean club used mannequins to replace absent fans in the stands for their match against Gwangju FC a day later, on 17 May, 2020. The ‘spectators’ wore Seoul shirts and face masks, while some wore the logo of SoloS – which is a a sex toy supplier.
In a statement, the league said: “The controversy over this ‘real doll’ incident has deeply humiliated and hurt women fans, and damaged the integrity of the league.”
The club had since apologised on Instagram and Facebook about this, explaining that a company called Dalcom offered to fill some of the empty seats, but overlooked that SoloS placed orders and adverts with Dalcom. The companies wanted to take pictures of the mannequins before the game, but left out several hairbands and logos – which was what caught the public eye.