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Many leagues are coming back, such as South Korean Hana1Q K League, Bundesliga starting may 16th, Denmark football league starting may 7th… Some are still thinking if they can afford playing behind closed doors, it depends a lot on business model (when media rights represent a big share of incomes, it makes sense, but in leagues where teams depend on lot on game day incomes, more complex). But what are the options to engage the fans? Of course, it will never fully be the same for players, but still it is important to engage fans and make players feel the support behind them, the power of the 12th man in football.

Here are some initiatives:

  • Fans represented in the stadium with faces reproductions, such as Borussia Mönchengladback idea: fans now have the option to order a "life-size cardboard cutout" of themselves - complete with photos of their faces - to occupy their usual spot on the terraces. For €19 ($21), Gladbach fans can buy the cardboard cutout and money goes to saving jobs and good causes. There could be up to 50.000 cardboards.

  • More technological, in Denmark, AGF Ârhus creating the world’s first virtual grandstand. How? The new digital initiative, which requires no less than 23 men to execute during the match, is being run in collaboration with the international digital video platform, Zoom. It will be a kind of virtual stadium to which you pick up a free ticket - and as the match begins, you gather with those who have a ticket to the same virtual grandstand section. And there are 22 different sections to choose from - just like a regular football stadium.  So, there will be room for both home  fans, neutral spectators and away  fans - but only virtual. The  digital initiative will see  several screens  to be set up in the middle of the  home-stadium of AGF,  Ceres Park, - here the fans watching from their virtual grandstand section will be shown. So  also, the players of the match will be able to see and feel the support from the living rooms directly at  the stadium  - at a healthy distance, but still close  at heart  and to the football.

  • Apps for fan to cheer with their cell phone. Fans can cheer (applause, sing…) by moving their cell or pushing buttons, and sounds are directly transmitted in the stadium. Remember that activation, award winner, in Tunisia in 2013 when CS Hammam-Lif connected 93.100 fans on an app called “Mobilizing the 12th man”. Stadium was closed for national security reasons, and government banned fans from al stadia. The app connected the fans to 40 speakers in the stadium. The more fans tapped on the icons of the app (applause, sing…), the more noise made in the stadium. 

  • Midtjylland to offer fans parking tickets for big-screen Superliga experience. League leaders described as the best possible alternative to a full stadium, players inside the empty facility will also feel the presence of 10,000 fans with live footage of the car park screened inside the venue. The club said more than 2,000 of their 12,000 parking spaces will be opened up around the club’s stadium and fans will also be able to access TV commentary through their car radios.

  •  TV production could be changed as well. While speaking with 49ers VP Executive Producer (interview here: https://bit.ly/2T57dBo), he mentioned that TV production can be adapted to empty stadiums, having more shots close to the players…

What do you thin? What ideas do you have for fan engagement in empty stadiums ? It is clear that those are short term solutions, and that COVID19 will have deeper consequences on stadium management for example with cashless systems in all stadia to avoid physical contacts, sensors to detect diseases… 

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