Sports fans around Australia got their first taste of the new reality last night: games played in empty venues.
To make it even more obvious, the AFL and NRL matches were both played on two of Australia’s largest stadiums.
In Melbourne, in front of 100,000 empty seats, Richmond defeated Carlton to open the 2020 season.
On social media, users were quick to point out how strange the spectacle was.
“This is the most bizarre s*** I’ve ever seen!” wrote Brisbane player Mitch Robinson.
Collingwood player Mason Cox took a lighter approach.
Pretty excited to hear all the trash talk on the ground tonight. I've got a feeling the person that censors the game is a bit on edge atm.
— Mason Cox (@masonsixtencox) March 19, 2020
Although these professional athletes are used to playing in front of packed stadiums, amateur sports players were quick to point out this is nothing unusual.
“Just like local footy in the middle of winter when u were a kid …… someone just needs to blow a car horn when goals are scored,” said one Twitter user.
In the NRL, there was an eerie feel as the Bulldogs went down to the Cowboys at ANZ Stadium, which can hold around 80,000 people at capacity.
— FOX LEAGUE (@FOXNRL) March 19, 2020
The match attracted similar comments on social media.
— Thecliffdogg (@scott_cliffe) March 19, 2020
However, sports reporter Ned Balme suggested the NRL is better suited to the empty stadium approach than the AFL.
“Watching them side by side, NRL is a much better “empty stadium” television product than AFL,” he Tweeted.
Broadcasters will no doubt be paying attention to how social media responds to the changes, as it deals with what is ultimately a devalued product.
While the NRL is desperate to keep playing at all costs to minimise the financial loss, if viewers start to turn off the games, broadcasters are likely to question their stance.
The Australian is today reporting the NRL stands to lose $110 million if it plays the entire season behind closed doors.
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