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Empty stands come to life with Autograph Sound 

Autograph Sound added atmosphere for clubs affected by COVID-19 playing behind closed doors or with restricted crowd numbers. 

Autograph Sound has been able to add atmosphere to the game for clubs affected by Covid-19 who have been forced to play behind closed doors or with restricted crowd numbers. 

Even without fans at full capacity, Leeds United and Queens Park Rangers from the Premier League and Championship respectively have partnered with Autograph Sound to generate a realistic atmosphere for their home games as clubs across the UK continue to play without supporters.

Covid-19 has proven to be unpredictable with inconsistency surrounding the number of fans being able to attend events, depending on the current climate. With Autograph, the sound can remain the same.

The UK-based sound operator has been running for nearly 50 years, expanding to football from previous work in the musical theatre and play industry. They’ve been able to support clubs with authentic cheers and chants that you’d normally hear on gameday. 

Lockdowns in the UK meant that theatres were closed to the public, prompting Autograph to utilise their equipment in a different way. As football matches remained in play for professional clubs, the technology headed to empty stadiums. 

Normally if you hear crowd noise with no spectators, it is done through the broadcaster. Autograph wanted to allow players, coaches and other staff to feel that same sense of realism, albeit with artificial noise. 

Using staff from previous projects, Autograph got together with Leeds and QPR to create chants that can spread from multiple sections of the stadium. Watford FC goalkeeper Ben Foster does weekly videos for his YouTube channel where you can hear the QPR sounds in action via his GoPro when he played in goal away at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium (Loftus Road). 

Noise can be heard for the pre-game build up, especially for a club like Leeds who have their own ‘Marching On Together’ song, as well as adapting to match scenarios throughout the 90 minutes such as goals. 

Autograph collaborated with Fan Chants, a company that built a library of 26,000 unique football songs around the world. The extensive collection of sounds ensures that chants are naturally different with a great mix that you’d hear in normal circumstances. 

Autograph will designate at least three people to a game so that they’re switched on to passages of play. Multiple computers can be used to control separate components of noise, with individual staff members to utilise the software.  

The first of these staff control intensity levels, where sound is altered accordingly to situations in a match – scoring a last-minute winner will be significantly higher for instance. A second person can monitor club-specific chants that can reflect the excitement they’d usually feel. If a team is pushing hard on a counter attack, the crowd will lift accordingly. A third staff member has extra control to anticipate key moments for goals, corners, cards and any other game-changing moments. They can even adjust to VAR decisions with a cancel button for goals which have tentatively been given.  

Games can be unpredictable at times, so the comprehensive coverage aims to make noise as free-flowing and realistic as possible to ensure sounds are adaptable to any situation. 

Clubs in the UK have only been able to welcome back up to 2,000 fans at a time throughout the 2020/21 season, but they’re currently back to no spectators at all. 

Even in the event of limited capacity in stadiums, the atmosphere is of course not as good. A partner like Autograph can deliver sounds of the game to help take your mind off the missing void of fans due to COVID-19. 

Autograph are looking to work long-term with UK-based clubs to add crowd noise for games now and for the unforeseeable future with limited to no spectators in attendance. It’s a project that can enhance the overall feel of matches, where players and coaches can get the same level of excitement as someone would at home. 

COVID-19 has been a challenging pandemic for nations across Europe, so Autograph are aiming to assist more clubs and leagues who are interested in getting their chants amplified in their home stadiums. 

Until COVID-19 is fully under control, Autograph’s sound software is one way of getting around the unique and tricky situation of affected crowd numbers if lockdowns for sporting events are forced upon us. 

You can find out more on Autograph Sound here. 

Liam Watson is the Managing Editor at Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Manchester United gives update on Old Trafford plans

Manchester United has updated fans on modernising Old Trafford, with an assurance that they will be regularly consulted with the progress.

Manchester United has provided an update to fans on plans to modernise Old Trafford, with an assurance that fans will be regularly consulted with the progress.

Old Trafford is the largest club football stadium in the UK, with a capacity of 73,000 and one of the most iconic venues in world football with 111 years of history as United’s home ground.

Initial meetings have been taking place with multiple architectural and engineering companies in order to choose a potential partner that will allow the Red Devils to move forward with the project.

No decision has been made on the scope or budget of the project, and it is still up in the air as to whether or not the stadium will receive a capacity increase. The final plan would be ‘based on analysis and on consultation’.

Stadium redevelopment plans are expected to be a key focus of the Fans’ Advisory Board (FAB), which will hold its first meeting early this year.

Manchester United CEO Collette Roche:

“These meetings have produced exciting potential ideas, although it’s important to note that we’re still at an early stage and it’s premature to talk about timetables,” she said.

“We intend to involve the Fans’ Advisory Board in the process, and we will also keep this Forum briefed. The creation of the FAB was an historic step that will establish a new model for fan engagement in English football and, ultimately, improve the club’s decision-making.”

Roche also noted that the development will be a ‘complex piece of work’, because of the many legal and regulatory factors involved. However, Roche reminded fans that good progress has been made and talks are at an advanced stage currently.

Sport Republic acquires stake in Southampton FC

Sport Republic – backed by billionaire Serbian businessman Dragan Solak – have acquired a large stake in the club.

English Premier League club Southampton has confirmed that Sport Republic – backed by billionaire Serbian businessman Dragan Solak – have acquired a large stake in the club.

They have purchased the stakes that were previously owned by Chinese businessman Gao Jisheng, and will work in collaboration with Katharina Liebherr – daughter of Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr – who owns the remaining stake in the club.

Sport Republic are a London-based investment firm for the sports and entertainment industry. They were founded by Henrik Kraft and Rasmus Ankersen and headed by Dragan Solak. Their portfolio includes Tonsser – a football player app that empowers youth players to progress and unlock their potential.

Southampton CEO Martin Semmens:

“Over the last two years, together with the shareholders of our club, we have searched for the right partner to take the club forward. Today we have found the perfect solution,” he said.

“Sport Republic are experienced investors, but also experienced within the world of elite professional sports. That combination is very hard to find, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement that secures our short and long-term future.

“We are grateful for the support of Mr Gao and Katharina that allowed us to take our time, turn away the wrong options and ultimately find the right partner for the future of this great club, its fans, staff and the people of Southampton.

Sport Republic Lead Investor Dragan Solak:

“My partners and I have experience in long-term investments in the sports and entertainment industry and Sport Republic has been founded to combine this expertise and deliver something unique to the market,” he said.

“Southampton has so many of the qualities we have been looking for in a major sports organisation. It has a great management team, excellent talent development, talented teams playing attractive football and a dedicated fan base. We are delighted to be able to complete this acquisition.”

Sport Republic Chairman Henrik Kraft:

“We will be an active and engaged owner, but we will not be starting any revolutions. We were attracted to Southampton because it is already a well-run club that follows a clearly defined strategy,” he said.

“Whilst Southampton is Sport Republic’s first acquisition, we expect more investments to follow over the coming years. Our ambition is to build a portfolio of high-influence stakes in football clubs and other sporting assets across the world.

“At the same time, we will also invest in early-stage sports technology companies and use our portfolio to accelerate the development of these companies. The acquisition of Southampton is a great first step and we are very excited about the journey ahead.”

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