LaLiga restart: Seville fans turn up to stadium as their virtual replacements blur the picture

June 12 – Sevilla beat Real Betis 2-0 behind closed doors in the usually passionate Seville derby as La Liga returned after a three-month gap Thursday. But not all fans obeyed the stay-away guidelines.

Groups of supporters gathered outside the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium while the TV broadcasting was not up to scratch.

Coverage was accompanied by virtual crowd noise as well as an overlay of computer-generated fans on the bottom-tier of the empty stadium.

“Our aim was to reproduce the same entertainment experience that viewers had before so we developed and selected technologies to create the same atmosphere,” La Liga’s audiovisual director Melcior Soler told Reuters.

Yet there were glitches with the system as the superimposed fans sometimes briefly disappeared from the stands and interfered with the main image.

“The use of virtual images and sounds in the television broadcasts of what they are trying to sell as the return of football feels to us like a lack of respect to the fans they want to replace,” said Emilio Abejon of fans group FASFE.

“We’ve spent years protesting against the fact that La Liga wants to make us the props for their broadcasts but with this move they have gone one step further. Now all they need to do is replace the players and they’ll have reinvented video games.”

La Liga responded by saying: “We want to give viewers a good experience and that’s why during this unusual time we have opted for virtualisation of the stands. Everyone watching it will know it isn’t real, but it will enhance the viewing experience.

“We want fans back into the stadiums as soon as that can be done responsibly. Fans are key to the atmosphere around football, both in the stadium and on TV.”

La Liga became the second top European league to resume, after the Bundesliga in Germany. The Premier League and Serie A are set to follow next week.

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