Fans watching England’s Premier League, La Liga in Spain and the German Bundesliga matches since the leagues began after the postponements due to COVID-19 may have heard fan noise despite the empty stands but an agreement between MLS, ESPN and the Independent Supporters Council, a prominent supporters association, means the network will not be using the artificial sounds throughout the tournament.
The use of the fan noise has been a prominent issue within fan culture since the return of football across the world with the most active conversation being had in Germany with supporters issuing banners in stadiums in protest of the inauthentic matchday experience.
FC St. Pauli's board members send out a message to #FCSP fans before the "home" game vs. #FCN, held behind closed doors:— Felix Tamsut (@ftamsut) May 17, 2020
"Without you, it's all worthless!" reads the banner.
The banner above them calls for reform in German football, adding: "Football lives through its fans!" pic.twitter.com/G7P7b0qcmA
Talking of the discussions between the league, ESPN and the Independent Supporters Council, ISC President Bailey Brown said: “I think going in, we were a little wary of where MLS and ESPN stood due to seeing how the piped-in noise had been handled in other leagues and it seeming like Bundesliga and La Liga were not listening to the desires of their supporters and ultras while simultaneously using their voices in broadcasts."
“After speaking to some of our friends in Europe, we tried to come prepared with some things they found were working and weren't working, to fan engagement in general, so that we could really help our domestic leagues set a precedent when making decisions involving supporters and fans” she added.
“We absolutely have to give credit where it is due to MLS and ESPN on this issue, as we were all on the same page", she commented.
“From the get-go, it seemed as if the notion was that piped in noise was inauthentic and ESPN had already been talking about not using it and other ideas instead. Those ideas included the added field mics, etc. to hear more of the game and players interactions, which has honestly received great feedback from what I can tell.”
He continued by saying: “At the end of the day, supporters aren't wanting the broadcasts to seem quiet, "like training", or "amateur" (all comments we have seen online), we are wanting them to seem authentic to the situation we, as a soccer community, are in. This is about honoring the work we put in on game days.”
ESPN is the only broadcaster to not use the artificial noise but this has also been well communicated between the league and supporters according to Brown: “Since those initial talks and the tournament starting, various broadcast companies have decided to go a different route from ESPN".
“Our contacts with MLS have reached out in these scenarios to give us a heads up and to also help gather the general sentiment of these broadcasts once experienced.”
The Independent Supporters Council is a group that both consists of and represents fans across North America and advocates for an active supporters culture across the continent. The Council has over 100 associated fan groups from Miami to Edmonton, Canada.