Artificial crowd noise an insult to fans, European club supporters say

A 2017 file photo of Borussia Dortmund playing against VfL Wolfsburg in an empty stadium after fan trouble. (AP pic)

BERN: Football supporters groups from around Europe have criticised attempts to liven up matches in empty stadiums by using artificial crowd noise, describing it as a rebuke to match-going fans.

The fans said that the recent return of football following the coronavirus stoppage, with matches behind closed doors, had shown that supporters were “the lifeblood of the game” and their contribution should be recognised by leagues and clubs.

“We have significant concerns regarding attempts by broadcasters to replace or imitate the unique atmosphere produced by fans,” said the statement by the umbrella group Football Supporters Europe, which was also signed by 26 fan groups from one dozen European countries.

“Augmented reality technology, pre-recorded chants, and other forms of artificial support represent a rebuke to match-going fans,” it said. “The absence of fans cannot be compensated for by a computer simulation aimed at the amusement of television audiences.”

Some broadcasters, such as Germany’s Sky, have given viewers to option of watching games with artificial crowd noise while in some countries, such as Hungary, crowd noise has been piped into the stadiums themselves.

The supporters also demanded greater participation in discussions over football’s future “including the necessary overhaul of governance structures and financial regulations.”

“There can be no return to normal,” it said. “Lasting change is needed to make the game sustainable from top to bottom, and fans stand ready to play a part in shaping that change.”