Behind Closed Doors #4

Augsburg v FC Köln : 07062020

As the phenomenon of games being played behind closed doors continues I will document the situations in which I experience the matches. Listening to the resonance of the empty stadium seeping into domestic space and then, in turn, imagining the thousands of domestic environments in which the game is being watched, returning to the stadium, resonating, filling the stadium with domestic noise and action.

…the collective song and intoxicating sound of the crowd does not just provide an accompaniment to the beautiful action of the players, but is the sublime matrix out of which play emerges, the force field that energizes the action, taking the form of competitive song and counter-song, strophe and antistrophe. This is why games played in front of empty stadia, say as a punishment for the fans’ racist behaviour, are such an abomination. A game without fans is a kind of category mistake; a mere training ground exercise devoid of sense. The key to football is the complex, configured interaction between sublime music and the beautiful image, Dionysos and Apollo, the fans and the team.

Simon Critchley What We think About When We Think About Football (2017 : p.70-71)

Augsburg v FC Köln

Watching Augsburg v FC Köln this weekend while sorting out the washing I slowly realised that the producers at BT Sport had added crowd noise – or perhaps that there was crowd noise playing in the stadium. I did a bit of research and found that:

…an “audio carpet” for the basic noise is taken from the previous meeting and it is mixed with the real noise of the game. Reaction samples for scenarios such as penalties, fouls and decisions from VAR are created and “inserted” by a watching producer.


So what is this experience? We listen to the sound of football being played in a near empty stadium; to a commentator in a studio. We hear almost every kick of the ball; the referee’s whistle resonating freely through the space and rebounding from the empty terraces; the sound of the occasional siren in the streets close to the stadium; the shouts of players and coaches. But now we also hear environmental sound, stereo crowd sound from a previous match being mixed live – auditory archaeology recreating reaction; simulating presence. The match is sounding in the present and the past. Where are the past spectators whose voices we now hear projected into our experience of the WWK Arena? Are they at home listening to the sound of themselves; listening to their reconstituted sounding memories.

John Brewin reflects on the experience of simulated crowd sound during Borussia Dortmund’s game against Hertha Berlin earlier that weekend:

Those watching Borussia Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 home defeat of Hertha Berlin were treated to the greatest hits of the Westfalenstadion’s Yellow Wall. The sound mixer, operating from Sky Germany’s studio in Munich, conducted a knowledgeable if partisan crowd. As Dortmund’s Emre Can stepped from defence to clear up some first-half danger, he was the recipient of applause, and when Hertha’s defender Dedryck Boyata appeared to have handled in the penalty area, the “fans” bayed for VAR before booing when the claim was denied by the officials. For the viewer there was the comforting embrace of context. Watching a game played behind closed doors requires extra concentration. The ebbs and flows of crowd noises can tell the viewer when they need to pay closer attention.
During Dortmund’s first game back, their 4-0 defeat of Schalke, the most audible sound in the Westfalenstadion was the throb of the electrics required to power a stadium built to hold 81,000 people. The Hertha game, though it produced a far less satisfactory performance from Dortmund, felt a superior viewing experience.

John Brewin : The Guardian 07062020 15.48 BST

It is Sunday evening and I’m emptying and re-filling the tumble-dryer, laying the table, chatting, keeping one eye on the match, still goal-less. Listening to the diegetic and non-diegetic sound of the passing moment.

Augsburg v FC Köln