Premier League considers virtual fans

Liverpool's training facility could see players return for training in small groups from Tuesday

The Premier League is exploring the use of audio effects and computer generated 'fans', to improve the viewer experience of watching behind closed doors games.

The league voted on Monday to allow teams to return to non-contact training in small groups from Tuesday and hopes to be able to clear contact training next week as it steps up 'Project Restart'.

Germany's Bundesliga returned to action on Saturday without any major hitches, which has encouraged the Premier League.

However, CEO Richard Masters says they are looking at ways to improve the television experience of watching games in empty stadiums should the league return as planned in June.

"I think we'll take a different approach, not better, but slightly different approach about the behind closed doors product and that was one of the things we were able to talk to clubs today, the direction of travel on," Masters told reporters.

The absence of fans was highly noticeable on Bundesliga broadcasts with players' shouting the only noise to be heard other than the voice of the commentator.

Sources with knowledge of the discussions have indicated that all options are on the table, including adding crowd noise and the use of computer-generated (CGI) fans to replace the images of empty seats in the stadium.

"In terms of the precise nature of what we are planning, we haven't really talked about it with the wide group yet so I don't want to share too much of the plans," Masters said during a conference call with reporters.

"But obviously the big issue is that if there aren't fans in the stadium, what does the viewing fan at home, what's his experience like?

"And how different is it to a normal Premier League production and that's the question we're seeking to answer."

While the league and broadcasters evaluate all the options, the focus for now though is on the players returning to their training grounds on Tuesday.

Initial training will be in small groups, no bigger than five players and limited to 75 minutes, and with social distancing rules enforced in and around the facilities.

Players will also be tested regularly with the first set of results expected to be made public on Tuesday.