the tricks of the TV channels to make people forget the empty stands

A cameraman in front of empty stands during a match in Frankfurt, May 30, 2020. The Bundesliga, the German football championship, has resumed since May 16, without an audience.
A cameraman in front of empty stands during a match in Frankfurt, May 30, 2020. The Bundesliga, the German football championship, has resumed since May 16, without an audience. SWEN PFORTNER / AFP

The German football championship resumed on May 16. In empty stadiums, for health security reasons. From the sofa, the spectacle is no longer quite the same: the voices of the players and coaches resound strangely, we can distinctly hear the strikes and cracklings of the cameras' cameras; goals are celebrated with a minimum of contact.

No shots of grandstands, no aerial views of the stadium and its raging crowd, no close-ups on the faces of spectators who exult or grieve, no chants, no exciting rumors when tension is at its peak, no more than delusional cheering at goal time. "It makes you lose the rhythm, the dynamics and the atmosphere that make the specificity of live sport", sums up Luc Pannier, director of antennas at RMC Sport. Exit part of the dramaturgy.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also In Germany, the blues of supporters after the resumption of football

The closed door is – for the moment – the norm for the competitions to come: the Portuguese football championship resumes Wednesday June 3 without public, the Spanish Liga will follow in the same way, on June 11, then the English Premier League, on June 17 June. In France, the Minister of Sports has been optimistic with our colleagues from Alsace, as for a possible restricted reception of the public for this summer.

Faced with the situation, the pay-TV sports channels display rather optimism: "The hardest part is behind us", says Florent Houzot, director of antennas for BeIN Sports. " The hardest ", that is to say: no sport at all. In the meantime, these chains are adapting. "This forces us to develop another grammar, another writing", positive the director François Lanaud, who officiates on BeIN Sports.

"The problem for the viewer is the sound"

First reflex: move some cameras and tighten the framing to avoid capturing the lack of activity in the stands. Multiply the plans for the game and stay true to its highlights, as close as possible to the players. "It's the game that dictates above all our achievement, our mission remains the same", specifies Emmanuel Roustit, at the helm, for RMC Sport, of the realization of the eighth final behind closed doors of the Champions League between PSG and Borussia Dortmund, on March 11.

During time-outs, when the ball goes out or a player is injured, the directors can multiply slow motion or close-ups. A way to rediscover the emotion that makes the salt of a match. "The real problem for the viewer is the sound", however, considers Emmanuel Roustit.

The first experiments with televisions for matches without an audience aimed to mask the echo of the empty speakers. The German pay channel Sky Deutschland, which provides the international signal for Bundesliga matches, has proposed to superimpose on a live match the prerecorded but mixed real-time atmosphere of another match, if possible between the same teams . BeIN Sports also offered this option to its subscribers. The result did not please everyone.

Florent Houzot, director of antennas for BeIN Sports, considers that the experiment is a success, even if it “Can be improved. "The viewer's feeling is the closest to a real match, judge François Lanaud. But it shouldn't get too artificial. When we hear unexpected whistles on the goalkeeper, for example, we are caricaturing what a football match is. "

The director salutes the experience of the South Korean football league, which broadcast supporters' songs and some pre-recorded reactions from the public, at goal and corner times: "A device closer to reality".

Read also Resumption of football behind closed doors: is a competition without an audience still sport?

13,000 cardboard silhouettes in the stands

A group of supporters from the German club Borussia Mönchengladbach supplied more than 13,000 effigies of cardboard supporters to decorate their stadium.
A group of supporters from the German club Borussia Mönchengladbach supplied more than 13,000 effigies of cardboard supporters to decorate their stadium. Martin Meissner / AP

Another center of interest for François Lanaud, the exchanges between coaches and players, now audible in the absence of an audience and able to provide indications for the realization. " These exchanges dramatize the meeting: it is a relevant communication, which brings new elements to the viewer ".

"The viewer can excuse certain things if he hears the coach give indications that the player is not following, for example", supports Emmanuel Roustit. " Personalities may emerge among the general public thanks to their voices and their reactions during the match ", enthuses François Lanaud.

"The right compromise is to find elements that make it as true as possible ", summarizes Luc Pannier, for whom, visually, the dressing of the stands remains a solution to make forget the thousands of empty seats and the echo of a deserted stadium. He salutes the "Nice initiative " of a group of supporters from the German club Borussia Mönchengladbach, who supplied more than 13,000 effigies of supporters… in cardboard, to decorate their stadium.

A proposal also considered interesting by François Lanaud, beyond its funny aspect. " Even if there is no movement, we have a visual identity close to reality ", analyzes the director.

" If we have to rethink a long-term achievement, we can imagine having giant screens in stadiums with an audience at home who reacts live, suggests François Lanaud. Communities are already coming together to create moments of this type on applications like Zoom. That would have people, in sound and image, at the stadium. "

This type of device is already used in South Korea, but also in Denmark: for the resumption of the football championship, on May 28, supporters of AGF Aarhus were present by videoconference inside their club.

No fear of disaffection from subscribers

Other tracks mentioned: add statistics in a special skin on another channel or in a corner of the screen on the main channel. " Most viewers prefer “classic” broadcasting, observes Florent Houzot. But this additional experience can be successful with an audience that is very interested in the tactics of the game. "

Data is already ubiquitous, notes Jacques Blociszewski, independent researcher and author of the book The televised football match (Apogée editions, 2007), because they “ promote sports betting " and the " comments on social networks " Thus increasing the participation of viewers.

At RMC Sport, like at BeIN, there is no fear of disaffection from subscribers, even if the situation were to last. " On the Champions League, with Lyon and PSG still qualified, there is a stake for French viewers ", says Luc Pannier.

"Competitions are gradually resuming, I am optimistic about the public's return"Florent Houzot suggests. Until the return to the stadiums.

Read also Ligue 1: Mediapro joins forces with TF1, Margotton and Lizarazu to comment on certain matches


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here