World football has resumed slowly and steadily amidst this global pandemic, albeit with a lot of restrictions. The game almost comes in a new format with a lot of protocols to follow. Strict social distancing norms, cleanliness and hygiene are adhered to. All football personnel, including coaches, support staff and substitute players inside the stadium need to wear protective masks and gloves. No spitting and drinks labelled with names to avoid accidental sharing. The reserve players have to sit keeping a safe distance. Disinfecting footballs at regular intervals. Even no gathering during goal celebrations. But to my opinion the biggest difference is the game happening in front of the empty stands as most of the countries still follow movement restrictions due to COVID-19.
For a viewer at home, watching a football game in front of an empty stand is probably very placid. No background clamour, no buzz, no fan chants, restricted goal celebrations is making the viewing experience flat. The feel of every game is just like watching a training session of a football club. One can hear players and coaches shouting and passing on instructions to their teammates, thumping sound of kicking a football, distinct whistle noise, etc. In other words, watching a game of football with no crowd is just like having cooked food without flavour.
To counter this and make a more delectable home viewing experience, top broadcasters across a few countries have introduced artificial crowd noise that recreates the feel of a packed stadium. It gives a feel of a match being played in front of live spectators. German Bundesliga, Spanish LaLiga, English Premier League, Danish Superliga have all started using this audio-visual technology. Broadcasters like Sky Sports, Sky Deutschland, Vizrt have introduced such technologies for their respective viewers. South Korean K League played artificial crowd noise over the speakers.
The broadcasters have created and captured crowd reactions and noise in specific situations like fouls, referee decisions, penalties, VAR appeal and normal game play. The broadcasters are then meticulously inserting these samples depending upon the game situations. Producers are intricately mixing up the crowd reactions which makes it look unique every time.
Although the broadcasters have started this new concept of artificial crowd noise in football, soon we can expect such an entrancing experience in other sports like American Football, Basketball, Tennis, Cricket etc. Many fans and media have criticized this endeavour as maladroit and useless. But one must understand that if this global crisis lingers, then this might become the new normal for a better home viewing experience.