The English Football League is expected to discuss the subject of implementing artificial crowd noise in behind-closed-doors matches, with Championship clubs exploring how to make up for the absence of supporters when the season resumes after the majority of clubs returned to training on Monday.
Broadcasters offered the option of fake fan noise during RB Leipzig’s win in the Bundesliga last weekend, while Borussia Mönchengladbach utilised 12,000 cardboard cut-outs of fans. The Championship, which is expected to restart in June, is exploring similar options, with Bristol City discussed varying innovations at club level.
“Make no mistake, we want to play in front of fans but if we can’t play in front of fans, I think the crowd noise is interesting,” said Lee Johnson, City’s head coach. “I’ve seen it in South Korea and it looked like it worked quite well, if the timing was good. Maybe that should be a viewers’ choice? We have discussed the crowd noise and we’re ready to go if we decide to do that but it’s got to be something that is broader than just Bristol City. The league has to decide what they want to do with that. I’m pretty sure that it will be discussed by the EFL.”
Since the Bundesliga restarted there have been only three home wins from 18 matches and Johnson admitted the absence of fans might diminish any home advantage. “I think it will be very, very different,” he said. “I have heard a few ex-professionals and coaches talk about how you get training-players and then you get game-players, and often in front of a crowd, it can bring anxiety or, indeed, it can whet the appetite for a performer to perform even better.
“It will be interesting, depending on the individual, and whether they are an introvert or extrovert in their performance, whether or not the crowd will make a huge difference in that performance. I don’t think there will be too much of a difference physically but definitely in terms of confidence and that ability to bounce back from an error.”
Last month Brighton’s chief executive, Paul Barber, said they had internally discussed introducing crowd noise.
Championship clubs resumed training on Monday morning under strict medical protocols, with players training in a maximum of a group of five. At Bristol City all 26 players followed coloured walkways to avoid any cross contamination to and from a hour-long session, equipment was sterilised throughout by club staff and players were given staggered arrival times. Heading of the ball is also not permitted under current guidance. “It was about getting used to and understanding the rhythm of it,” Johnson said.
Johnson added it may take his players up to a fortnight to become comfortable again with tackling and close contact after the government gave the green light to move towards phase two of competitive training. “I’m pretty sure that would be at least a week, 10 days away before clubs like us can start to implement that,” he said. “Depending on when the season starts you’ll probably need a couple of weeks of the boys getting comfortable with contact. It’s like anything. If you haven’t had a fight in 10 years and all of sudden you have got to fight, it’s going to be very very difficult.”