The Bundesliga has admirably paved the path for football’s return in Europe, but the Premier League should go its own way with the use of artificial fan noise, writes Michael Hincks.
German football’s ability to so far hurdle the many obstacles that came with returning amid a pandemic has been commendable. Not a single top-tier match has been delayed, while the positive tests to have hit Dynamo Dresden in Bundesliga 2 have been handled without affecting the whole division’s schedule.
But the noise, or lack of, is still something that takes getting used to, and unless you can understand the shouts from players and coaches, that novelty soon wears off. In the grand scheme of returning amid a global crisis, it is all rather trivial, but it remains a matter that arguably needs addressing.
Borussia Moenchengladbach v Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Bundesliga
Image credit: Getty Images
Image credit: Eurosport
Borussia Monchengladbach’s decision to display cardboard cutouts of supporters was admirable, but only made sense from an aesthetic standpoint.
And the reminder that these matches are being played behind closed doors gets more noticeable the bigger the ground gets. Perhaps it is down to preconceived ideas and memories of past matches at the Allianz Arena, but Bayern Munich’s thrilling 5-2 win at home to Eintracht Frankfurt was certainly lacking the atmosphere.
The elation of going 3-0 up, the tension of seeing that lead reduced to 3-2, and then the joy once more at sealing the win; the cheering and jaw-chattering that comes with such contests was missing on this occasion.
But would the introduction of artificial fan noise really make that much of a difference?
The prospect of a quiet Der Klassiker meeting between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday could prompt the Bundesliga into exploring this idea, while it appears as though the Premier League is already inclined to think yes it would.
There was a report in Friday’s i claiming the league are in talks to use an app which could allow fans to record chants and hear them pumped out at stadiums, while there have been other reports this month suggesting Sky Sports will play out pre-recorded chants and crowd noise to hide the silence.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, who remains flexible on a June 12 return to action, has pointed to this possibility too, saying:
Obviously the big issue is that if there aren’t fans in the stadium, what does the viewing fan at home, what’s his experience like and how different is it to a normal Premier League production? That’s the question we’re seeking to answer.
The difficulty will be ensuring it sounds less like awkward canned laughter on a terrible British sitcom, and more like the perfect score for when a baby lizard escapes a bunch of snakes.
It will therefore require a dedicated producer in the Sky Sports or BT Sport studio to ensure it fits in seamlessly with the output. Does that mean a button for oohs, another for ahhs, and another one for anti-VAR chants?
We’ll find out in due course, but the Premier League at least has a few weeks to iron out these plans, while it could yet be that each home side is tasked with this operation, particularly if the home team wants to recreate, as best it can, the advantage that comes with playing at your own stadium.
It is a minor concern amid a global crisis, but one supporters will no doubt debate, especially as we are all armchair fans, for now.