Fan groups protest fake crowd noise in soccer amid pandemic

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              A colourful evening sky can be seen during a German Bundesliga soccer match between SC Freiburg and Hertha BSC Berlin in Freiburg , Germany, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. (Tom Weller/Pool via AP)
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DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — An alliance of soccer fan groups across 16 European nations launched a campaign Wednesday against artificial crowd noise being used on broadcasts of games held in empty stadiums amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter on the day the English Premier League resumes and UEFA decides on rescheduling the Champions League, the fan groups say that “augmented reality technology, pre-recorded chants, and other forms of artificial support represent a rebuke to match-going fans.”

When the Bundesliga resumed last month, German broadcasters started offering TV viewers a choice between live sound from the empty stadiums or a soundtrack of recorded fan chants mixed by a producer to accompany the action. TV channels showing the games internationally have often picked a feed with artificial noise, without offering their local viewers the choice.

Video games company EA Sports is supplying similar crowd noise, drawn from its own archive of recordings, for broadcasts of Spain’s La Liga and the English Premier League.

“Empty stadia are a direct consequence of a public health crisis that has impacted every single one of us and the absence of fans cannot be compensated for by a computer simulation aimed at the amusement of television audiences,” said the fans’ letter, released by umbrella group Football Supporters Europe.

The fan groups have also called for supporters to be given a voice in consultations about when and how it’s safe to allow fans to return to stadiums amid the pandemic. They also call for involvement in reforms to make soccer more economically sustainable in a system they brand “flawed, unfair, and unsustainable.”