Australian Rugby League Commission boss Peter V’landys has ambitiously targeted July 1 as a return date for capped crowds, but the cardboard cut-outs will be in place for the next seven weeks regardless.
They will be returned to the buyer at the end of the season.
The NRL has also cheekily suggested broadcasters could read out the number of “home fans” in the stadium for each game from round four onwards, with the expectation the number will increase each week with more orders.
The NRL will trial having 500 cut-out “fans” at Bankwest and Central Coast stadiums this Friday and Saturday before heavily promoting the concept leading into round four.
It’s expected broadcasters Nine, the publisher of this masthead, and Foxtel will pan to the cardboard cut-outs during telecasts in coming weeks and still images will be captured by two on-ground photographers.
German soccer team Borussia Monchengladbach placed 12,000 cardboard cut-outs of supporters in its 54,000-capacity stadium for a Bundesliga match last weekend.
It is one of a number of measures the NRL is grappling with to create some sort of atmosphere at its venues, which will be restricted to players and officials within each club’s COVID-19 bubble, as well as essential match-day officials and media.
Banners made by fans will be placed around the six venues chosen to host matches in the short term, while music will still be played at grounds in the warm-up, during breaks of play and at half and full-time.
Playlists from the players involved will also be included.
But perhaps the biggest innovation is still yet to be confirmed with the NRL working on a number of proposals to have video and audio content from fans beamed straight from their lounge rooms into stadiums.
The theory involves a select amount of members from each club being captured cheering their own team live with their reactions relayed to add atmosphere inside crowd-less stadiums.
The content would need to be moderated and would likely be generated with a delay of a few seconds as a backdrop to the on-field action, giving players the impression they are battling in front of a live audience.
The code is assessing a number of platforms to be able to achieve the concept.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.