• The Villa Vision

Welcome to the Thunderdome!


A few months ago WWE launched the all new ‘Thunderdome!’ A state of the art

arena fully equipped with LED boards that allow fans to attend events

virtually.

WWE sends out a link to a live stream of the event and each fan sits down,

camera focused on them and microphone primed, ready to enjoy the show.

Think Zoom meeting on steroids.

The live images of each fan are displayed on the LED boards and sound is

pumped out through the arena speakers. The wrestlers can react and feed of

the noise as though a crowd was there in the room.

“Well good for them but what’s that got to do with Villa?”

Ok I hear you, but go with me on this and imagine the Villa Park stands full of

LED boards beaming 20,000 fans love from their own homes straight into the

ground. The collective roar of each individual fan booming out of the sound

system.

What a sight it would be, but what are the pros and cons, could it really work

as well for football as it does for the WWE?

Let’s start with the positives. As with the wrestlers, players could feed of the

noise of the home crowd and see the reaction of their fans in the stands.

The fans would be able to watch the game knowing they have a presence at

the stadium, that their cheers and groans, sat on their sofa at home, can be

appreciated by more than the wife and kids (or the dogs and cats in my case,

who just look at me totally confused).

Those viewing on TV will be treated to stands full of faces and authentic crowd

reactions as opposed to depressingly empty seats and a complete lack of

atmosphere (lockdown football has at least given me a glimpse at life as a

blues fan).

“Sounds great but what are the down sides?”

Alright, it’s not all roses, there are some downsides. The obvious being the

sheer cost of implementing the scheme could be enough to leave it dead in

the water from the very beginning.

The other big problem would be it’s vulnerability to misuse. In the WWE one

fan who used their virtual seat to display a rival promotions logo while another

appeared on live TV dressed as a member of the KKK (no he wasn’t in a

Millwall shirt)


Then there is the smaller problems of TV rights and the difficulty of getting a

coherent chant going.


“So that’s it then, the problems are to big to overcome”


Hang on, don’t be so hasty, I have a few ideas. Let’s look at how each

problem could be solved.


Cost

Firstly, fitting the entire stadium would be unnecessary, the majority of the

screens would be out of sight of the TV cameras and those in the upper tiers

would likely go unnoticed by the players. So if we fitted LED displays in the

lower tiers only it would reduce cost but would still allow a large number of

fans to attend virtually.


The cost of installation could be meet by selling tickets to fans for the virtual

seats as well as using them to display adverts in rotation with the fans faces.

Even so, obtaining and fitting that amount of LED boards is still an extravagant

as a temporary measure, but why is it only temporary?


Once full crowds can return the boards could be relocated to replace the

traditional advertising hoardings and other available spaces. The boards could

still carry the adverts that are seen at the moment but those ads could be

rotated with live streams of fans. Doing this would allow 10 to 20 thousand

virtual fans to join the 40 thousand in the stadium and would allow those fans

who have moved out of the area, or even the country, to have a presence at

the game.


Imagine, for example, the Ghana Lions cheering on the side, their voices

added to those of the live crowd.

Misuse

To alleviate this I propose a two pronged approach. Firstly, use booking

history to ensure slots go solely to villa fans with priority being given to season

ticket holders, with those meeting certain booking history requirements taking

any spare slots.

The second part is to ban anyone misusing the system, not only from gaining

entry to the virtual stadium but by also applying a 12 month ban from

attending games in person starting from the day the stadium opens fully for

the first time.


TV Rights

Sky and BT have been quick to defend their rights to be the only broadcasters

showing premier league football in the uk, so how do we get them to allow

clubs to stream the games to the fans in virtual seats?

Well, sky already has an increased number of games giving them a greater

pull for advertising. The addition of virtual audiences would greatly enhance

the viewers enjoyment of the games by having real life crowd noise reacting

authentically to the action. The Premier League could alternatively strip Sky of

the extra games and return control of those games rights back to the clubs.

I’m sure a case could be made by a decent legal team to sky not having rights

over live match’s that they can’t show, such as the 3pm Saturday games.

Crowd chants

The problem with crowd chants is how they get started. Normally a couple of

mates will start a chant, those nearby will join in and the chant will quickly

grow from there until it fills the entire stadium.

In a virtual stadium you can’t hear the individuals next to you, only the overall

noise produced by the crowd meaning our mates voices are now lost in a sea

of noise. One of the best parts of going to a live game is the chants, so how

do we get them back in a virtual stadium.

The answer, we appoint a fan leaders, a select group whose audio is piped to

the rest of the virtual fans, via the live stream, so that when they start a chant

everyone else can hear them and join in.

In conclusion, fitting a football stadium with all the necessary equipment would

be no small undertaking and nothing will ever beat the buzz of a live crowd at

a match. However, while fans can’t attend in person, a virtual stadium would

allow the next best thing and in the long term it would provide a way for distant

fans to make their voice count.

I’m in favour of a Villa Park version of the ‘Thunderdome!’ and see it not as a

quick fix to a short term problem, but a long term solution to bringing together

the Villa family, no matter how far away they are.

So to the Ghana Lions, I look forward to saying (In my best American accent)

“Welcome! To the Thunder Park!"


Article by: Ryan Lee


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