Virtual fans fill up empty stadium | inside World Soccer

Virtual fans fill up empty stadium

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Triestina, an Italian soccer team from the city of Trieste, has come up with an innovative idea to combat dreadful crowd figures at their home games by creating "virtual fans".

Virtual fans line the stands to watch the Triestina-Padova match in Trieste
Virtual fans line the stands to watch the Triestina-Padova match in Trieste

Photo: Il

The Serie B outfit has some serious challenges when it comes to selling tickets.

Trieste is in a geographic cul-de-sac, with the Adriatic Sea to the south and west, Slovenia to the east and a narrow strip of land connecting it to the rest of Italy.

That means the city, despite a population of some 200,000, has virtually no surrounding population.

What's more, every Serie B game is broadcast on live TV, a fact that may also limit crowd sizes.

"We have one of the best stadiums in Italy, but we can't fill it and we can't make it smaller," club owner Stefano Fantinel told The Wall Street Journal.

"So we came up with something like this."

The club are now using two-dimensional images of cheering supporters printed on a giant sheet of vinyl and stretched across the empty seats to give the impression the stadium is full.

The "virtual fans concept" could save the club about $130,000 a season in insurance payments, not to mention savings in staff, operation and repair costs. Just roll them up and put them away until the next match.

Triestina general manager Marco Cernaz added: "We'd love to have a full stadium with real supporters. And we've done everything we can to get people through the gates.

"But the reality is that we can't. This way at least we create a bit of atmosphere, a bit of theatre."

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