Fans spot disturbing detail in NRL's 'cardboard crowd' gimmick

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Dr Harold Shipman was spotted in the crowd. Image: Reddit

The NRL’s fake crowd gimmick has taken a turn for the worse, with social media users spotting a disturbing detail during the Penrith Panthers and Newcastle Knights clash on Sunday.

With fans unable to attend games due to the coronavirus crisis, the NRL has given punters the chance to still get their face on TV.

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The NRL’s ‘Fan In The Stands’ promotion allows people to send in their photo and have it placed on a cardboard cutout in the crowd at games.

For $22, fans can have their face (or the face of a loved one or pet) pop up in the stands.

A cardboard cutout crowd in the stands during the New Zealand Warriors clash with St George Illawarra Dragons. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Social media users have praised the NRL for the creative idea, however it took a dark turn on Sunday.

Fans watching the Panthers and Knights at home noticed the face of a notorious serial killer on one of the cardboard cut-outs.

Users on Reddit pointed out that Harold Fredrick Shipman’s face was in the stands - an English doctor believed to be the worst serial killer in history.

Shipman took his own life after being sentenced to life in prison in 2004.

He was found guilty of the murder of 15 patients in 2000, but it is believed he had more than 250 victims.

Fans were less than impressed that the image of the serial killer found its way into the stands and on TV screens.

NRL fans love Dominick Cummings prank

Among other interesting faces in the stands over the weekend was a dog and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top advisor Dominic Cummings.

Cummings is fighting for his career after travelling from his London home to Durham and back during the coronavirus lockdown.

Unlike the Harold Shipman gaffe, fans loved the Dominic Cummings prank.

NRL head of marketing Peter Jarmain previously explained the thinking behind the promotion.

“We wanted to make sure the lifeblood of the NRL, our members and fans, had the chance to pull on their jerseys, don their club colours and support in a really fun way,” he told

“I know the players and clubs will appreciate the support, even if the fans aren’t able to shout, celebrate and jump around for the tries and hits as they usually would.”

Time will tell if the promotion continues in round four.