After more than three months of no soccer in Spain, LaLiga returned Thursday night for the Sevilla Derby (#ElGranDerbi) where Sevilla won 2-0 over Real Betis.
The first La Liga broadcast in more than three months came with excitement, as soccer in Spain finally returned, but it also was packed with a few experiments that would be used throughout the league’s four-day comeback: 1. Digital fans in the lower sections of stadiums and 2. Electronic Arts-supplied audio for crowd noise.
Between the video game-esque qualities of LaLiga’s return coupled with team and fan anticipation, we’ve put together five key takeaways from Spanish soccer’s return.
LaLiga Takes First Place on Social Media
During the COVID-19 sports timeout from March 11 – June 10, LaLiga was the third-most engaging league behind only the NBA and NFL. During LaLiga’s comeback debut from June 11 – June 14, the Spanish league took the top spot, with more than 20.7 million engagements followed by the Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, and NBA.
LaLiga versus Bundesliga – Who won on Instagram?
Last month we saw Bundesliga return to play. Comparing LaLiga’s comeback to Bundesliga’s, we looked at each league’s most valuable channel, Instagram, and viewed their average engagement per post. LaLiga earned more than 110.4K engagements per post while Bundesliga earned more than 34.9K engagements per post. Not surprising, LaLiga’s most popular post was also from Instagram and showed Leo Messi warming up before FC Barcelona’s game against RCD Mallorca.
#ElGranDerbi and Leo Messi
#ElGranDerbi saw Sevilla versus Real Betis — LaLiga’s first match back. Sevilla’s 2-0 win over Real Betis helped the team earn their best day on social media for 2020 (both for game days and non-game days). The team totaled more than 210K engagements across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
These were Sevilla’s most engaging posts on the three social media networks.
What’s also worth noting is that Thursday’s match earned Sevilla the second most game-day engagements for the 2019-2020. The match with the most engagements? The #ElGranDerbi on Nov 10, with close to 270K engagements.
Leo Messi Breaks Another Record
The four-day LaLiga comeback saw exciting goals and even a record broken.
FC Barcelona’s Leo Messi set a LaLiga scoring record against Mallorca Saturday (during their 4-0 win). Messi became the only
player to score 20 or more goals in LaLiga in 12 consecutive seasons. One of many reasons why he’s considered the GOAT!
Soccer During a Time of COVID-19
Masks – The New Accessory
With countries loosening restrictions set in place during the lockdown, leagues are making sure first and foremost players, coaches, and personnel stay safe. Besides testing temperatures and social distancing, all players are to wear a mask when not playing. Throughout LaLiga’s comeback weekend many teams’ social posts included players traveling and/or entering stadiums wearing masks.
Remembering Fans Who Passed Away
While returning to play brought a sense of excitement, there was also a sadness. Many teams honored their loyal and passionate fans who passed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a touching tribute teams like CD Leganes, Valencia CF, and Athletic Club laid flowers on empty seats.
What’s more, there’s been some debate about natural sound versus fake crowd noise. LaLiga’s North American broadcast partner Bein is offering its fan both options — hear players and coaches in the stadium (au naturale) or listen to the EA-Sports produced crowd noise.
Virtual Fans Fill Empty Stadiums
As we mentioned, LaLiga matches from June 11 – June 14 included fan audio (compiled by EA Sports) and computer-generated fans (the product of a Norwegian company called Vizrt) — found on the first level stadium seats and behind the goals.
Some stadiums turned the empty seats into a ‘canvas’ to fill the void of no fans, and down the road it could include the opportunity for advertising. One fun fact: Real Madrid has started renovations on their stadium, so the team is currently playing games at their training field.
The Premier League returns Wednesday, June 17 with Sheffield United and Aston Villa kicking things off. The EPL will forgo LaLiga’s virtual fans though. As The Wall Street Journal reported, the league will put customized tarps on the lower tiers of stadiums. One common theme will be crowd noises. Arlo White, an NBC Premier League announcer, will have crowd noise in his headset when he calls matches this week, so it feels like a full stadium.