How bad can pre-match entertainment get?

February 24, 2010

There are 20 minutes left to kick off for VfB Stuttgart’s match of the year, a round-of-16 Champions League tie against Barcelona. The game has been declared a sellout. Yet the stadium is only half full.

A last-minute influx fills the ground, many fans literally taking their places as the game kicks off. But who can blame Stuttgart supporters for leaving it so late – there was absolutely no motive for them to arrive any earlier.

Every one had a numbered seat and there was an army of stewards in place to make sure nobody sat in the wrong place.

All they missed, then, was the pre-match “entertainment” – a few insipid rock songs, advertisements blasted repeatedly over the sound system, an MC bellowing banalities into a microphone, often at an ear-piercing volume, and, worst of all, the dreaded Champions League theme tune.

Of course, it wasn’t always like this. There was a time when the supporters made the atmosphere. Fans would sing and the noise would gradually build up in the hour before kick off reaching a crescendo when the teams come out.

That still happens in some parts of South America where toilet rolls and spectuacular pyrotechnics greet the teams.

But in Europe, organisers now feel they need to tell supporters when to stand, shout, jump and sing.

On Tuesday, no noise at all was heard from the Stuttgart fans until six minutes from the start. Even then, they were fighting a losing battle against some weird electronic Europop and quickly gave up. Even when the teams came on, the muzak continued at full volume, drowning out the crowd’s reception.

It has killed the pre-match atmosphere at games and supporters have shown what the think of it. Like Stuttgart fans on Tuesday, they have voted with their feet.

It could, of course, get worse. How long before some bright spark decides to have a live match commentary in the stadium?

PHOTO: VfB Stuttgart’s coach Christian Gross stands by the pitch during their Champions League soccer match against Barcelona in Stuttgart February 23, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Bohlen

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