Football fans will be compelled to test out interactive crowd noise when coverage of the Premier League resumes on Wednesday, says a leading sports technology expert.
The remaining Premier League games will be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning supporters will be restricted to watching their team’s remaining matches on television.
With the stadiums empty it will be an unusual experience for the viewers, so Sky Sports have teamed up with EA SPORTS FIFA to create a range of bespoke and team-specific crowd noises that can be added to coverage.
Lewis Wiltshire, formerly the UK head of sport at Twitter, and now a consulting partner at Seven League – Europe’s leading digital media consultancy with a specialism in sport – thinks it is a concept which will draw viewers in.
“It is unusual for fans to experience watching a game on TV without crowd noise,” he told the PA news agency. “For the vast majority it is a new experience and people will use the option firstly for curiosity and also to make it more familiar.
“The FIFA video game has had many, many years of good research and development put into it.
“It is easy for people to scoff at the idea of sport and video games coming together but that is not crowd noise that has been thrown together, that is crowd noise that has had an incredible amount of thought, research and development put into it.
“It will never be as authentic as some people want it to be because we can’t have crowds in the stadium. Everyone will accept the FIFA is a good option, it’s not the only option.
“That is where we arrive at an interesting debate in the industry. If you accept that having fans in the stadium is undoubtedly the best option, but we are where we are, the next level of conversation is do you try to give the audience at home some element of background noise to make the TV proposition more compelling.”
The coronavirus pandemic has caused rights holders, clubs, leagues and governing bodies to think differently about how they use technology.
The Premier League announced that fans will be able to appear on a live action fan wall, with the league also introducing a club-specific wrap around each stadium’s lower tiers, the use of music at key moments, and a designated ‘celebration cam’ for players to share their goalscoring exploits.
Wiltshire, whose Seven League company have forecast the digital trends for 2020, says it has been a crucial time for clubs to think about their digital strategy.
“We are seeing from our clients that the importance of digital has hugely increased during the lockdown, we are also seeing that sport has a responsibility to help its audience get through lockdown,” he said.
“We are also seeing our clients using this opportunity to reset their strategies. This has been a period of unprecedented downtime for activity on the pitch which means it has been an unprecedented period of activity for teams who are resetting their strategies.
“Most of them are using this as an opportunity to think about digital membership, is it the right think to do be giving content away on social media or should they be putting that away behind some exclusive member areas?
“The sports industry is thinking about greatly reduced revenue streams versus a need to invest in digital at a time when digital is more important than ever.”
:: Seven League is a global digital sports consultancy, advising the world’s most iconic sports teams and federations including FC Barcelona and The FA. To learn more about Seven League’s latest digital sports trends for 2020, visit MailmanGroup.com