With rugby union set to resume in two weeks with New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, there are certain things that it can learn from the sports that have already resumed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The competition between New Zealand’s five franchises will be behind closed doors in the same way that other team sports competitions are already being played.
The most high-profile return was the Bundesliga in Germany. That football competition has already provided three rounds to a sport-starved public. Rugby league’s NRL has also made a welcome comeback with the Parramatta Eels overcoming the Brisbane Broncos, but one of the main talking points during the game was the virtual noise that accompanied the play.
One thing that has been frequently commented on since football’s return is the eerie atmosphere for TV viewers created by the cavernous empty stadiums. The echoing sound of players’ voices is far from what viewers are used to, so that problem has been alleviated by NRL using a catalogue of sounds from previous matches.
While an idea like this would have been met with scepticism, with fears that it would sound nothing more than a recycled video game track, it was far more authentic in practice, adroitly replicating the swells and dips in the intensity of the crowd to match the action in the game.
The idea has been met by overwhelming positivity by fans after game one of the NRL’s return and this could well be adopted by other sports.
— Mary Collier (@mtc01) May 28, 2020
Having forerunners such as the Bundesliga and the NRL provides Super Rugby Aotearoa with the opportunity to see what is a success and what is not before the season starts on June 13. The consensus seems to be that the virtual crowd is an idea worth looking into.
After weeks of no action, many fans will want a return of rugby, or any sport, in any form. But with no sign as to when fans will be allowed to flock to stadiums again amid the pandemic, the virtual crowd could make viewing far more palatable and closer to what it used to be.
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