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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.

Los Angeles FC teams up with Foundation Fighting Blindness to host vision impaired fans

Major League Soccer club Los Angeles FC is teaming up with the Foundation Fighting Blindness to host blind and low vision fans at LAFC matches at Banc of California Stadium this season.

Leveraging the team’s partnership with audio technology Mixhalo, fans will have access to crystal-clear, real-time play-by-play in English, featuring the call of ESPN LA’s Dave Denholm and the Spanish audio featuring Armando Aguayo on 980 AM La Mera Mera.

All fans at Banc of California can now use their phone, headphones and the free mobile Mixhalo app to listen to Mixhalo’s high-quality live audio for an immersive experience while watching at the stadium.

As the first-ever MLS team to adopt the technology, LAFC announced its collaboration with Mixhalo in December 2020. With fans now returning to Banc of California Stadium at full capacity, Mixhalo audio will be available to all fans at every LAFC home game throughout the remainder of the 2022 season.

“LAFC matches are for everyone,” LAFC Co-President and CBO Larry Freedman told lafc.com.

“We are constantly focusing on improving our fan experience and making our games more accessible to all. We are proud to welcome fans from the Foundation Fighting Blindness community this season to experience LAFC matches in person through Mixhalo’s incredible technology.”

Guests from the Foundation Fighting Blindness community will attend select LAFC home games and have the opportunity to meet with Denholm and Aguayo before the game.

“We are honoured to be partnering with LAFC in making the games more accessible for our blind and low vision community,” Jason Menzo said to lafc.com, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

“We look forward to the technology rolling out into other stadiums, not only in the United States, but globally.

Mixhalo Head of Sports Doug Holtzman added:

“Mixhalo elevates the live sports experience for everyone, and we’re thrilled that vision impaired LAFC fans can enjoy a better experience at matches this season.”

“With live calls from Dave Denholm directly in your ear – it really doesn’t get much better than that.”

FIFA and EA Sports end 30-year deal

As reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, gaming giant EA Sports and world football governing body FIFA have parted ways.

The partnership dated back to 1993, when FIFA International Soccer was launched for the SEGA Genesis.

Their current partnership was set to expire at the conclusion of the Qatar World Cup, with a new deal aiming to branch out into new areas – including NFTs.

It was reported that EA made a ‘significant offer’ for an eight-year exclusivity deal with FIFA for all of its Esports and gaming rights. However, the deal was knocked back, according to Reuters, as FIFA did not want the rights all with one company.

FIFA 23 will be the last game made in collaboration between the two organisations, set to release in late September this year, worldwide.

The FIFA series was estimated at the start of 2021 to have sold over 325 million units, according to ForbesFIFA 18 is the equal 40th highest selling video game of all time, estimated at 24 million units across all platforms.

FIFA confirmed it would still produce video games with third party developers, while EA will rebrand the FIFA series under the title EA Sports FC. The new series would include licensees such as the Premier League and LaLiga, which at this stage has authentic coverage, as all players are face scanned and the full broadcast packages akin to real life are featured in the game.

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