Premier League Considering Virtual Fans as Chief Admits England's Top Flight Could Take 'Different' Approach

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League
Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Premier League are considering adding crowd noise and 'virtual fans' in order to make the viewing experience more entertaining, with the league's chief executive Richard Masters admitting that atmosphere is an issue.

No football has been played in England's top flight since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but following a vote on Monday, clubs are now permitted to train in small groups again in what is the first major step towards the resumption of the 2019/20 campaign.

Germany's top division returned last weekend, with fans from all over the world tuning in to catch some live football. However, the lack of fans was evident, with commands from players and coaches the only noise to be heard apart from the voices of the commentators.

The Premier League's chief executive Masters has now admitted that the top division in England could take a 'different' approach with regards to how behind closed doors games are displayed on television.

“I think we’ll take a different approach, not better, but slightly different approach about the behind closed doors product and that was one of the things we were able to talk to clubs today, the direction of travel on. We have group of clubs and broadcasters together on that,” Masters told reporters, as quoted by Reuters.

Richard Masters
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters Media Briefing | Alex Morton/Getty Images

Reuters add that sources with knowledge of the discussions that have been held state 'all options' are currently not being ruled out - this includes adding crowd noise and virtual fans to improve the viewer's experience. However, there are concerns over whether this may take away from the reality of the events on the field.

Nonetheless, while Masters wasn't keen to discuss specifics, he did raise the 'issue' of viewers tuning in for matches, and whether they would be entertained despite the lack of noise. Masters continued: “In terms of the precise nature of what we are planning, we haven’t really talked about it with the wide group yet so I don’t want to share too much of the plans.

“But 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 and that’s the question we’re seeking to answer."

Borussia Dortmund v FC Schalke 04 - Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund v FC Schalke 04 - Bundesliga | Pool/Getty Images

CEO of OZ Sports, who offer technology to add crowd noise, Gudjon Gudjonsson stated that such technology can improve the viewing experience while also keeping the game as close to reality as possible.

He said: “The idea is to protect the integrity and experience of the game, by turning the attention away from the empty stadium, and instead replacing it with appealing surroundings to make the game more interesting, and as close to reality as possible. These are times to explore and experiment."