The crowd roars as the ball comes to Lionel Messi, he takes a shot at goal, but it’s blocked by a defender. Soon after Gareth Bale hits the back of the net, but the score is overturned by VAR. By the time the final whistle blows neither team has been able to score and 93,246 passionate football fans walk away without a winner being decided. The last time fierce rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid faced off at Camp Nou was in 2019 – however this weekend’s ElClasico will take on a very different look.
While there will be no fans at the first ElClasico since the COVID-19 pandemic, La Liga is still striving to provide the best entertainment experience possible for its fans.
The first La Liga ElClasico was played in 1928 and the match between Barcelona and Real Madrid has grown to become one the of biggest rivalries in world sport.
The game itself features some of the best players in the world including Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Gerad Pique, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Antoine Griezmann.
Then there is the work being done off the field by La Liga to promote the match internationally and provide the best coverage possible.
Red carpets bearing the competing clubs’ logos and an ElClasico logo have been placed at landmarks all over the globe. In Australia, a red carpet has been placed in the vicinity of the Sydney Opera House.
The other red carpets are located in the United States, United Kingdom, India, Senegal, Colombia and Tajikistan.
More than 100 ElClasico events have also been organised across the world. This includes watch parties in Vietnam, Dubai, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya while a number of drive-in cinemas will be showing the match in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina.
Digital events have been planned for counties where COVID-19 restrictions are in place.
La Liga said that ElClasico provides entertainment like no other event.
“Though governmental health restrictions mean fans won’t be in the Camp Nou stands for this first ever ElClasico behind closed doors, LaLiga has ensured that fans around the world will still be able to come together for the greatest show in club football,” La Liga said in a media release.
“Everything is in place for the return of ElClasico, the best footballers in the world and the best fan experience possible.”
ElClasico is the most-watched club game in football with the upcoming match expected to reach around 650 million fans worldwide.
La Liga ambassador and former Real Madrid captain Fernando Hierro spoke of the game’s worldwide appeal at the La Liga Ambassadors Gala on Tuesday.
“Earlier, the Real Madrid-Barcelona matches had more domestic and national interest. But it started growing and became more international. It now attracts global interest, and it will be widely viewed,” Hierro said.
A series of technological innovations for the broadcast of this year’s La Liga ensure that the coverage of the match is of the highest standard. The innovations include 360 degree replay technology, a virtualised visual crowd, crowd noise and the use of drones to provide new camera angles.
The league had already been working on implementing some of these technologies but expanded to include the virtual crowd and crowd noise due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
La Liga’s head of audio-visual programming and production Roger Brosel said that the league wanted to offer the best audio-visual show for its fans.
“We have been working for four years now, trying to be innovative and having the aerial cameras and all the 360 replay technology, this year is just another step forward,” he said.
“We wanted to introduce these technological innovations related to virtual … to allow the fans to concentrate on the match and the way that things were being played without the negative impact caused by an empty stadium.”
“From our department what we are trying to do is be more attractive for people all around the world.”
For the 2020/21 La Liga season the new graphics and stats are powered by artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
La Liga uses its Media Coach platform to integrate data into the broadcast. The platform was originally only used by technical staff and coaches but is now also used to show tracking, performance, and match data during the broadcast.
The AR graphics and statistics appear on the ground during the broadcast to add to the match experience.
Roger Brosels also said that there had to be a balance between using data and graphics and letting viewers enjoy the match.
“Data is very interesting, and it contributes something but too much live data can distract viewers, or it can mean that the match experience isn’t as good.”
“The producing team are very sensitive to this issue, they introduce the data when it contributes something, adds something extra to the match storytelling.”
La Liga is also extending the ElClasico experience to the internet and social media. The league’s social media channels will be posting content in the build up to kick-off. An online fan zone will also be launched where fans will be able to win replica shirts, while La Liga’s website will also have an ElClasico section.
The teams are evenly matched heading into this weekend’s game, Real Madrid has 73 ElClasico wins while Barcelona trails on 72 wins – there have also been 35 draws.
ElClasico is being broadcast live in Australia on beIN Sports, the match is scheduled to be played this Sunday at 1am (AEDT).