The cheers and jeers then will be broadcast into the stadiums through loudspeakers during matches, bringing a little dose of their adulation and frustration back to the players.
It is an experiment that will be closely watched in other countries. The major team sports in the United States are making plans to resume in coming months and are wrestling with the problem of how to make games seem meaningful without fans in attendance.
German top-flight soccer already has resumed, and the Bundesliga has been experimenting with artificial crowd noise during live broadcasts. ESPN’s Korean baseball broadcasts also have used some light crowd noise, while Fox is reportedly planning to do the same for its NFL telecasts in the fall. Still, reviews of artificial crowd noise have been mixed.
But Japan’s app goes much further, allowing soccer fans to choose a range of reactions — from cheer, chant, clap or shout to groan and boo — with a simple tap of their smartphones. Personal messages also can be recorded, and all the noise then will reverberate around the stadium.
While Bundesliga players do not hear the artificial crowd noise, which is reserved for television viewers, players in Japanese soccer’s J-League will be motivated in real time by the reactions of their fans.
Yamaha Corp., which has developed the app, recently tested the system at a 50,000-capacity stadium in Shizuoka, in a friendly soccer match between Jubilo Iwata and Shimizu S-Pulse.
“At one point during the system field test, I closed my eyes, and it felt like the cheering fans were right there in the stadium with me,” said Keisuke Matsubayashi, an official with the stadium company, according to Reuters. “This system had the potential to cheer players on even in a stadium of this size.”
Whether the system catches on remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a better idea than one tried out by a South Korean soccer team this month.
FC Seoul was fined about $80,000 after its attempt to add a little atmosphere to one of its games backfired spectacularly. The club was forced to apologize after putting dozens of sex dolls in empty seats at a closed-door match.
South Korean soccer’s governing body said it accepted the club’s claim that it did not know the mannequins were sex toys. But it said the club should have used common sense, adding that the incident had “deeply humiliated and hurt women fans.”