Football

Eerie silence and echoes or fake crowd noise - surely there's only one winner?

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A TV camera in empty stands at a Bundesliga match.

Image credit: Getty Images

ByEurosport UK
08/06/2020 at 13:57 | Updated 08/06/2020 at 14:57

“Nothing is the same anymore, so let’s make the best job of it we can.” – BT Sport presenter Jake Humphrey, June 6, 2020

Wise words indeed. But, speaking in reference to using fake crowd noise over behind-closed-doors football matches, is this really the best we can hope for?

Somewhat surprisingly (at least to this lover of manufactured cheering and booing), there is much debate.

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The use of the technology was at the fore on Saturday as BT Sport showed two Bundesliga games side by side: Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig v Paderborn.

Both were obviously played in empty stadiums, but the Leverkusen game had fake crowd noise over the broadcast, the Leipzig game didn’t.

For those wondering what fake crowd noise sounds like, it’s mostly a low hum throughout the game – as you would hear when the ball is being passed around in midfield with no incident during a fan-attended game – and then cheers, whistles or groans when a team scores, a player is booked or a chance is missed.

It’s far from perfect; the noises are sometimes seconds behind the action and on occasions the sounds played out don’t match the incident, making it reminiscent of playing an old Pro Evolution game when the crowd sound was often horribly out of sync.

However, is it better than nothing? Than the echoes of an empty stadium and the handful of cheers from substitutes when a team scores?

Some don’t think so.

"There's no crowd there, don't see the need to pretend there is,” was one of the replies to a tweet from Gary Lineker saying that he thought the fake crowd noise was “definitely better” than silence.

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There were a number of other replies along a similar line of “I just want to hear it as it is”. One reply said the viewing experience had become “much less authentic”.

That is true in that the sounds viewers are hearing are not ‘real’ – they are mostly reused tracks from the previous meeting between the two teams this season.

However, this isn’t ‘authentic’ football.

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The impact of Covid-19 has meant that football has been forced behind closed doors, without any fans. Most would surely agree that football without fans is an inferior product, so, as Jake Humphrey says, why not do the best we can and inject some noise into games so they don’t sound like pre-season friendlies or training matches?

Among those to enjoy the audio experience for the Leverkusen v Bayern game was Sky Sports presenter Jacqui Oatley.

“'I’m actually getting a weird adrenaline rush watching this match with the crowd noise,” she tweeted. “Feels like “proper” football is back and it’s helping get the @premierleague and @efl juices flowing...”

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Sky sound like they are going to take things even further when their coverage of the Premier League starts this month.

Not only are they going to have crowd noise, as with the Bundesliga, but they are going to have a ‘fanzone’, allowing supporters to watch matches with friends on a video call while the action happens. They can chat, post predictions and polls, and even influence the crowd noise they hear on screen.

Will that be 'authentic'?

It certainly won’t be football as we know it, but when will that happen again? Will it be this year?

At the moment it looks unlikely, although in Australia some small groups of fans will soon be allowed to watch rugby games while there have also been reports that 20,000 supporters could attend the FA Cup final.

If that happens then great, especially if it paves the way for more fans to be slowly reintroduced into stadiums. Until then, why not provide the best possible viewing experience when fans can’t attend games and have to watch on TV?

It’s not ‘real’, no, but it’s surely the best we have right now.

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