Bristol City to raise prospect of crowd noise and cardboard fans with EFL as Lee Johnson talks return
Clubs in Germany have tried to rectify a lack of atmosphere at behind-closed-doors matchesby David Byrom
Lee Johnson says Bristol City will explore ways to improve fan experience for games behind closed doors.
The Robins returned to training today ahead of a proposed Championship restart next month following the coronavirus shutdown.
Matches will be played behind closed doors due to the virus, which is an issue that has hampered some fans' enjoyment of games in Germany due to the lack of atmosphere involved.
In Germany, Borussia Monchengladbach used cardboard cutouts of fans to fill stands, whilst other clubs piped crowd noise into their stadium.
Joking that he has thought about opening up a cardboard cutout business for football's return, Johnson said that City have certainly discussed ways to improve the experience for fans.
"Make no mistake, we want to play in front of fans," he said.
"If you can't play in front of fans, the crowd noise is interesting.
"I've seen it in South Korea, it worked quite well, the timing was good. Maybe that should be a viewers' choice if someone's watching on TV or the internet.
"If I was a fan, I'd want my own cardboard cutout sat in my seat in a home game. Get the lads to sign it, then when we're over all this, it's a bit of fun - if you catch yourself on TV, even better.
"There's a lot of innovation, we have discussed crowd noise and we're ready to go if we decide to do that.
"It's got to be something broader than Bristol City and the league will have to decide what they want to do with that."
The Robins do hold some sway at the EFL thanks to Mark Ashton's place on the governing body's board - and Johnson says that the club's CEO will be raising the idea when the time is right.
Johnson said: "I talk to Mark Ashton at least three times a day and it's definitely something that's come up between us.
"I fully expect him to have passed that on. Maybe not yet but when we get more detail on fixtures, at that point I'm pretty sure it will be discussed with the EFL."
The City boss admits there are more pressing issues to discuss before how broadcasts can be made more enjoyable, and says some clubs could hold reservations over aspects such as crowd noise being misused.
He said: "We've got to understand how many real people we can get in the stadium.
"The cardboard cutout is a fun option, nothing more, and something fans can have as a momento in the long-term.
"In terms of the crowd noise, I think a lot of people have different opinions on that because naturally the home team will try and gain a competitive advantage.
"That may prove difficult to get through."
For now, Johnson is focused on City's return to training, and said today's first day back was a welcome sight.
"It was a very happy day all round," he said.
"It was good to see everyone, the lads were absolutely buzzing to be back in.
"We were split today into six groups - three groups of five and two groups of three, plus the goalkeepers.
"It was good, we worked on rotations in midfield with the six midfielders. They ran a very difficult run with the ball.
"It was one hour maximum, everything staggered, with Group A in at 10am, Group B in at 10.20 on a different pitch with different coaches after being swab tested on their arrival.
"You walked down a red route then back down a blue route to make sure there's no cross contamination.
"Scott Murray was looking very well in his PPE, making sure he washed down and disinfected all the equipment between sessions.
"It was a nice balance between hard, physical work, touches of the ball and still building those trios' or partnerships' cohesion, because that competitive element is going to be really important.
"Where you haven't been competitive for two or three months, even if we're working with the strikers, we're making sure there's something on it with just finishing to become competitive."