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, as are the other competitions that are already being played.
The most high-profile return was the Bundesliga in Germany, which has already provided three rounds of football. Rugby league’s NRL also made its comeback today, with the Parramatta Eels overcoming the Brisbane Broncos, but one of the main talking points of the game was the virtual crowd 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 empty stadiums. The echoing sound of players’ voices is far from what viewers are used to, so that problem has been alleviated by the NRL by using a catalogue of sounds from past matches.
Virtual crowd example:
— NRL (@NRL) May 28, 2020
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.
Fake crowd noise definitely better for the viewers. Thoughts? #NRLBroncosEels
— Mitch Robinson (@MitchRobinson05) May 28, 2020
Having forerunners such as the Bundesliga and the NRL provides Super Rugby Aotearoa the opportunity to see what is a success and what is not before the season starts on June 13th. The consensus seems to be that the virtual crowd is an idea worth looking into.
Expected to hate the fake crowd noise, but I really don’t. Feels more like watching elite sport than round two did. I totally get why the broadcasters want it. #NRLBroncosEels
— Slatts (@trentslatts) May 28, 2020
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.
things I never expected to say: the virtual crowd noise as used by Fox in the NRL opener worked well, and has set a standard for other televised sports over the coming months
— Hugh Taylor (@HughRacing) May 28, 2020
The virtual crowd noise in the NRL (on Sky Sports now) is a little weird but it does make a difference. Definitely adds to the viewing experience. Needs must and I'd imagine the Premier League are taking note – although it's easier with a more structured sport like rugby league.
— Ian Doyle (@IanDoyleSport) May 28, 2020
— YorkshireGaming24 (@YorkshireGmng24) May 28, 2020
The restarted @NRL is using virtual crowd noise in an empty stadium. If I’d have known before I’d have said it was a daft idea, in reality it’s done brilliantly. A genuinely impressive achievement in live sound design.
— Infinite Hermit (@InfiniteHermit) May 28, 2020
Truth be told, not everyone enjoyed it.
— Cranky Aussie Nana..who follows American politics (@KatrinaAnne9) May 28, 2020
#NRL virtual crowd is a joke. We all know no one is there.
— Mick (@Lone_wolf_Racin) May 28, 2020
Virtual crowd audio. So fake, is it really needed? #NRL
— Glenn Kirby (@IndieRockKid1) May 28, 2020
What do you think? The way forward for rugby in the next few months? Let us know in the comments below