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The La Liga resumes in Spain, featuring artificial fan sounds from EA Sports

For football fans around the world, the past few months or so have been difficult. In addition to the on-going fight against COVID-19, most major European leagues have gone into lockdown—just like the rest of the world. However, it looks like we could be approaching the light at the end of the tunnel, with several leagues announcing returns in the coming weeks.

Still, the return of football (oh, what joy) comes with a caveat. Matches will be played in empty stadiums, although fans will still be able to cheer on their clubs from the socially-distant location of their living rooms. And while the German Bundesliga opted to go with a “natural” setup for its first round of fixtures for certain media markets—you could even hear players shouting each other on the pitch—the Spanish La Liga is going for a more technological approach.

During the first match of the weekend, Spanish football authorities opted to pipe in audio supplied by EA Sports—creators of FIFA 20, the iconic football videogame. It’s a natural decision, especially when you consider how realistic FIFA 20 games can sound. What’s a little more unexpected is the collaboration with Norewegian broadcasting tech company, Vizrt.

Basically, live broadcasts of La Liga matches will have fans super-imposed upon the empty seats to give the illusion of a full stadium. Couple that with the realistic soundtrack from EA Sports, and it’s more or less the same as a real-life match, right? Well, not really. However, it’s still a valiant attempt at making the best of the current situation, and as a football fan—I’m just glad that football is back.

According to La Liga’s AV director Melcior Soler:

“We respect a lot what the Bundesliga are doing and the Premier League, and the NBA, but what we are doing will be different. We are thinking of this as a televised entertainment spectacle. What we are going to do is make you recall what you are used to seeing when the stadiums are full.”

And it looks like fans of football in general will have to get used to having artifically-produced sound and visuals for live televised matches for the forseeable future. The Premier League will also be using the same sounds from EA Sports, although reports that they will avoid the use of super-imposed fans.

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Which is a good thing to me, personally. While the addition of some general crowd noise could help to make things… less weird, the artificial fans used for La Liga’s broadcasts looked 2D, and to be honest, didn’t add much to the experience for me (after the initial comic relief).