FOOTIE fans WILL be there when the Premier League resumes this week . . . almost.
Their faces will be, with cardboard cut-outs of supporters filling some of the thousands of empty seats.
For around £20 to £25, die-hards can buy a life-size figure to take their place in the “crowd”, which they can own after the game.
The scheme has already proved a big hit with supporters in Germany, where clubs returned to action last month.
This is just one idea Premier League teams are using as they react to empty grounds and respond to the coronavirus crisis.
Champions-elect LIVERPOOL plan to display a message thanking the NHS.
BRIGHTON, who have had a coronavirus testing centre at the stadium, plan to display posters designed by local kids. They have also offered season ticket holders the chance to feature on a £20 cut-out which will be placed in the Amex.
NEWCASTLE, LEICESTER and BOURNEMOUTH are offering cut-outs too. Bournemouth players will also auction their boots for charity.
ASTON VILLA are asking fans to send banners and flags to be displayed at Villa Park.
ARSENAL will print tributes to fans who died from the virus in their matchday programmes, which can be bought or downloaded.
TOTTENHAM have offered their stadium to the Government to be used to test how fans could be returned to matches. They will continue allowing NHS staff to use their facilities — even on matchdays.
MAN CITY are launching project We’re Not Really Here, based on a fan-favourite chant. Supporters will be able to send messages during games which City TV presenters will read out during special match-day programmes.
WOLVES fans can be part of a giant crowd mosaic at the club’s Molineux ground if they stump up £7.
MAN UTD will also create a mosaic of fan faces from across the world. A spokesman said: “The mosaic is to inspire the players during home matches until real crowds return. The image will then be stored at our museum, to remember this unprecedented time.”
EVERTON will have a mosaic and display flags too, while CRYSTAL PALACE fans can buy posters and flags to put in their front room to create what the club is calling “Selhurst Park At Home”.
NORWICH have launched an “apart but together” crusade which will see fans’ messages displayed on the scoreboard during games. Their banners and flags will also be placed around Carrow Road.
WATFORD, WEST HAM and SOUTHAMPTON players will donate signed shirts to a charity raffle to raise funds for the Shirts For Heroes crusade.
BURNLEY, who have allowed Covid-19 testing at their Turf Moor ground, are planning a day of celebration for the NHS.
SHEFFIELD UNITED will light up Bramall Lane in support of the NHS too and are asking fans to send in pictures to go on cut-outs.
CHELSEA will display fans messages across their Stamford Bridge ground and display banners.
In Germany software developers launched an app, MyApplause, which allows fans to combine to create crowd noise from their homes to be piped into stadiums.
TV bosses here are also developing technology to make it seem like stadiums are full of noise.
Sky Sports is working with EA Sports, developer of the Fifa video games, to simulate a live crowd.
Fans will be able to see and interact with their mates while watching games.
New app Sky Sports Fanzone has been designed to let friends see and chat with each other via video and alter the crowd noise. Viewers can choose to watch with or without the pre-recorded sounds.
At BT Sport, its Watch Together gives fans the chance to talk with pals during games in a split-screen mode.
Clubs are also considering installing a sterilisation tunnel which is claimed to kill the coronavirus. Designer Trimite says the clubs are interested in buying it to help with the safe return of fans next season.
But one scheme in the Far East ended up getting a red card.
South Korean team FC Seoul were fined a record £50,000 for using sex dolls to fill seats at a match held behind closed doors.
Officials said it had “deeply humiliated women fans”.
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