Fake fans

Wall Street Journal has a story about an Italian soccer team using printed sheets of vinyl to fill up their stadium. Since fans weren’t showing up to their games, management decided to employ fake fans.

The club itself makes a majority of its revenue from television contracts, which makes one wonder if ‘real’ fans are even needed.

A few things come out from this story.

First is the actual images on the vinyl and how the fans are depicted. The image really reflects how owners and management see their fans or at least what behaviour they expect from their fans. Every ‘fan’ is out of their seats and doing something. Not very authentic, but makes the team look good on TV.

Second, this brings to light what fan behaviour is at the physical stadium, with thousands of other fans, versus what fan behaviour is like at home, alone. What exactly do fans like about being at the actual game? What do they hate? Could attending an actual game be a thing of the past?

This also ties back to my posting about goal horns and how they’re and example of inauthentic fan expression.

Image from Wall Street Journal.

Video and Fan Experience

HBO’s four-part series “24/7 Penguins/Capitals” kicked off last night. Cameras went behind the scenes during current regular season games to gives viewers an inside look into the two teams that will play in the Winter Classic this year.

Viewers got to see stuff that never gets captured by game productions. Show highlights include coaches talking to their teams, players spending time with their families and just raw emotion coming out of player to player interaction.

Best scene for me was the fight between a couple players. After the crowd cheering and commentary commending both fighters, it cuts to a quiet medical room where the Penguins players is getting stitched up (in HD, mind you) and getting checked by the doctors. You know guys get stitched, but to actually see it done and the doctors presence in the room captured more than a game production.

I think these types of shows do a great job showing more than what we’re used to. We know, or have a general idea of what stuff happens behind the scenes but to actually see it through video enhances the fan experience. From watching the game, talking about it afterwards, engaging online with fans, we can piece together the stuff. We can assume coaches rip into their players. We know players get injured all the time. But to actually confirm what we assume really makes the show worth watching.

More responses from around web:

Yahoo!
Fanhouse
National Post

Nordiques Fans to Demonstrate

Fans of the defunct Quebec Nordiques will be making a trip down to Long Island to attend a game between the Atlanta Thrashers and the New York Islanders. A group of 1,100 Nordiques fans will be there to show support for a team to relocate back to Quebec City.

The city lost its franchise back in 1995 as the team moved to Colorado. Ever since, fans have wanted a team back. Recently, the Government of Canada and the Province of Quebec has talked about supporting the development of a new arena to possibly bring a team back.

The plan for the 1,100 demonstrators is to cheer at the 15 minute mark of each period, marking the 15 years they’ve gone without a club in Quebec City. Both the Islanders and Thrashers have been struggling at the gates, drawing fans well below the league average.

The interesting thing here is how adamant cities like Winnipeg and Quebec City have been on getting the next NHL team that happens to relocate. They really do have a tonne of fan support, but professional sports is a business. Without stable sponsorship and support from the business community in those cities, a professional hockey team can’t fly.

Derek Zona took a look at a number of markets that don’t have an NHL team and the various factors needed to support one. Arguments can go either way, but looking at these numbers, it’s hard to justify relocating a team to Winnipeg and Quebec City.

The whole debate, all of the actions and the findings has been left to fans. Not the league, not a research company and not a University of College. The actions, as planned by the 1,100 Nordiques supporters, is fan driven. That’s what makes this whole story and debate so interesting.

It remains to be seen what the final results will be. But what is clear is how hockey fans are the ones taking action here. Both online through blogs and social media, and the real world by driving eight hours to Long Island to show support for a defunct team.

*Update*

Here’s the third period demonstration by Nordiques nation. Beauty. Montreal Gazette story here.

Goal horns in professional hockey

Since fans as a collective group has been a major focus of this project, I’ve been dissecting their experiences in relation to the game. One experience that I’ve begun to question and loathe is the goal horn in every professional hockey arena.

These tend to go off after every goal the home team scores and also after a win. But these annoying sounds didn’t always exist. There used to be a time when it was the fans in attendance that would rock the building.

I personally don’t understand the purpose. My guess it’s a way for a team to make up for the lack of noise in their buildings (ahem, Phoenix, Florida, Long Island) and make the arena seem like a wild place to be to attract new fans.

To me, these goals horns are a way for professional hockey teams to control their fans. Cheering/supporting/heckling are a few of the ways for group of fans to interact with the game. A goal horn just replaces the fans with a cheering squad hired by the team.

This really limits what a fan community can do. We’ve seen from Premier League soccer chants, goalie taunts and blogs the kind of stuff fans can come up with. When fans as a group are unrestricted, the possibilities are endless. The goal horn is just a phoney representation of what professional leagues want their fans to be. It’s an attempt to enhance an image and takes away from the genuine expression of fans.

Here’s a great goal celebration from a high school game: