Premier League clubs have discussed the use of fake crowd noise if games are played behind closed doors when football is cleared to return.
Representatives of all 20 clubs held a conference call on Friday to discuss how and when the league could resume after the coronavirus shutdown.
The league has been suspended since March 13 because of the pandemic, which has caused a near-total shutdown of sport across the globe and strict limits placed on people’s movement in an attempt to curb the virus's spread.
Even if some of the UK government’s lockdown measures are eased, a ban on mass gatherings is expected to remain in place for several months. That would mean any return to Premier League action would likely take place behind closed doors, with the games broadcast on live TV.
Playing without a crowd would negate much of the home team’s advantage as they would no longer have the vociferous backing of their own fans. There is also the issue of what clubs would do with the swathes of empty seats usually occupied by supporters.
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber says such issues have been discussed, including the possible use of fake crowd noise and covering seats with messages thanking NHS workers for their efforts throughout this crisis.
“We’ve started to give some thought internally into, ‘Could we dress the stadium?’” Barber told The Times.
“Could we make the stadium better than just blue empty seats in our case? Could we look at noise being brought into the stadium in some way, but is that really what the fans at home would want and is that what the broadcasters would want?
“I would rather see the blue seats covered. We could put up a great message to thank the NHS of course and we can use the space we have got for good purposes, without a doubt.
“Then you’ve got the operational challenges: how would it work in terms of the emergency services? The last thing we would want is to put any more pressure on them.”
Playing matches playing behind closed doors is viewed as the fairest way of deciding key issues such as relegation and European qualification, compared to other proposed solutions such as using a points-per-game average or even voiding the season altogether.
Barber accepts that playing in front of full crowds would be the preferable option, but believes clubs will adapt in these unprecedented times.
“We’ve all adapted so quickly and in some ways it’s a real triumph for human beings, so I dare say we would adapt to playing behind closed doors,” he added.
“It would be strange, and football but not quite as we know it, but if that is the only way then of course we have to get on with it.”