Seven Ways Teams Have Filled the Stands in Era of Social Distancing


Before 2020, sports fans couldn’t have imagined being stuck at home for so long, waiting on long season delays and rooting for their team in their living rooms instead of in the stands. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and these sports teams have found creative – and hilarious! – ways to fill their arenas with support. 

No professional player wants to perform to an empty stadium. Players thrive on the energy and excitement of the fans. But in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, strict social distancing guidelines have been enacted in every major industry, including major sports leagues. But if human history has taught us anything, it’s that necessity has always been the mother of invention and the novel coronavirus is no exception.  

Faced with the looming thought of an empty stadium, a few clever leagues came up with creative ways to fill their seats while playing hard without sacrificing safety.  

  1. Cardboard Stand-Ins 

The Borussia Monchengladbach Club in the German Bundesliga football league chose to fill its seats and give back at the same time. For its first post-COVID-19 home match on May 23rd, it filled the stands with cardboard cut-outs of the teams’ devotees, dubbed “pappkameraden.” Fans were encouraged to purchase their likeness on a cut-out for €19 ($20 USD) each. All proceeds went to COVID-19 relief funds and local service agencies.  

2. Mannequins 

The FC Dynamo Brest from Belarus also had mannequins with cardboard cutouts of fans’ faces in stadium seats at its first season match. The cutouts were pictures of fans who had purchased virtual tickets, with the proceeds going entirely to COVID-19 relief efforts. The strategy seemed to work for both teams as the Borussia Monchengladbach won their match 4-1, while the FC Dynamo Brest won 2-0. 


3. Drum Section 

While players found the stadium visually welcoming, the roar of the crowd has not been present. Thankfully, Taiwanese Baseball teams Rakuten Monkeys and Uni Lions found a solution. Not only did they fill the seats of their April 16th game with cardboard cut-outs of fans, but the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium did not stop there. They also had four robots drumming snare drums during the game.

4. A Banner Day 

At South Korea’s Happy Dream Ballpark, the stands were filled with printed banners. Across them, images of fans wearing protective face masks mirrored the masks worn by players, staff, and cheerleaders.  

5. Hot Stuff 

Another team found a solution for the empty stands that landed them fines. The FC Seoul football team of South Korea were sanctioned with 100,000,000 KRW for filling their seats with sex dolls. While the team apologized, they still received backlash for their decision.  

6. Adorable Audience 

Taking a more family-friendly approach, the Korean Baseball team Hanwha Eagles filled the stands for their May 27th game with a much more wholesome and innocent filler: stuffed animals.

7. Surround Sound  

For many players, there’s no substitute for the sound of a crowd. Yamaha’s Remote Cheerer app gives fans a chance to cheer, boo, applause, and otherwise let their players know how they feel. When these sounds are piped in through the stadium’s sound system, players will hear the next best thing to the sound of a live audience.  

While all professional teams certainly miss their fans, most are recouping their losses through advertising sales. Adapting to social distancing requirements, inventing creative ways to fill stands, and staying connected with fans virtually are all part of their new strategies.  

Certainly, fans and players alike cannot wait for the day games across the world can be played like they used to be: with a stadium full of living, breathing fans. For fans and players alike, that day can’t come soon enough.  

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