Coronavirus Roundup: Premier League Could Be Played Behind Closed Doors Until May 2021 With CGI Fans

Across Europe, leagues are taking action in response to the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, but in regards to the Premier League, there is still no clarity on just how the remainder of the 2019/20 will play out.

New proposals and rumoured methods are being touted on an almost daily basis, but the general consensus is that the necessary sporting authorities will do their best to conclude the season in whatever capacity they can.

Among those are plans to play the remaining fixtures behind closed doors, with an Olympic Games style camp to house staff, media and players to ensure that all those participating either on the pitch or off it are in a safe environment where they can finish the season.

How and if this will go ahead is still not definitively decided, but the idea of playing behind closed doors may very well extend beyond the current campaign according to the latest developments.

Potential for Top Four Divisions to Play Without Fans Until May 2021

The only plausible manner to complete this football season - for those who haven't cancelled theirs already - is to play the remaining fixtures without fans. While in no way a foolproof system, and one that requires many pieces of this troublesome puzzle to fall into place without any fault, it is the plan being most seriously considered.

However, it could very well be that this proposal carries on until next season - and potentially even until May 2021. According to The Times, senior figures in the top four divisions of football in Britain believe that matches those respective leagues will be played without supporters until Christmas time.

Beyond that, depending on government permissions to allow mass gatherings, this could be stretched towards the latter end of the 2020/21 season. The reasons for this depend on on how accessible a vaccine to COVID-19 is, with the production of it pivotal to allowing people to meet en masse. Boris Johnson's stance is not yet known on the matter, but a hardline approach could see this come into effect.

What Would This Do For the Clubs in Question?

Games could be played behind closed doors for much longer than previously anticipated

Naturally, such a decision would have huge financial implications for Premier League football clubs. Matchday revenue and ticket sales make up a large amount of the cash injection certain clubs earn. In the case of Manchester United, this equates to roughly 17% of their total income, amounting to £111m per season. Overall, across all four top divisions, the lost income would be exceed a staggering £1bn.

While the Premier League would take a serious hit, it's those in the lower reaches who are frighteningly more vulnerable. For clubs in the lower divisions, they rely even more on ticket sales and matchday revenues than the Premier League, who also get much more through television right revenue.

League One and League Two clubs average about 40% of their income from fans attending matches and utilising club amenities. Due to the potentially damaging effect this decision may have, the Football Association are looking at how they can minimise the damage to clubs at all levels.

Jonas Baer-Hoffman, secretary-general of the international footballers’ union Fifpro, said: “In terms of fans being back inside stadiums that might likely not be possible until people are vaccinated. So it may well be that we play a full season without spectators.”

Sky Sports Consider Use of CGI Fans in Stadiums

As seen in some of the matches that took place behind closed doors prior to football coming to a total standstill, football without fans is a considerably less enjoyable experience. In a bid to tackle that - should this season go ahead without fans - Sky Sports are considering using computer generated imagery (CGI) to fill the empty stands.

While some other leagues in Europe have opted to finish their campaigns as they are in various capacities, the Premier League remains adamant they will see this season out. The degree of finance tied in to the television rights in the English top flight is far greater than with any other football division, but with empty stands and zero atmosphere, implementing CGI fans is a method being considered to make the games more enticing.

Borussia Mönchengladbach plan to play in their stadium with cardboard cut-outs of fans

“Even if a club doesn’t sell all of its seats in the Premier League, if you have one stand that’s particularly empty that results in much lower feedback from the viewer,” a senior Sky source said, (via inews)

“People have found closed door matches at international level a bit of a novelty in the past but if you have to watch that multiple times over many months then that will probably devalue the product, which runs the risk of harming of the Premier League’s brand and arguably the broadcasters too.

“It’s not actually that hard to put in CGI moving graphics, even on the side of live action. The challenge is to do it at the scale that’s now required. Can you make Old Trafford look full when you’re moving the camera between all of the angles that cameras have to move between?

“CGI is easy to do if you have one fixed camera and you’re doing it in one-fixed zone. But think of 24 cameras essentially giving you a 360 degree view. That’s a lot of tech. The tech exists but the challenge of running it at the latency that’s required has never been done before."

Source : 90min