Three Premier League clubs are reportedly in talks to have cardboard cut-outs of fans in the stands when football returns next month.
The ‘Stay at Home – Be at the Game’ project enables fans to download their image to be used on a lifesize cardboard cut-out, costing around £20, with some of the money raised set to aid the NHS in the fight against coronavirus.
It could also be used to help sports clubs to raise crucial revenue as they face uncertain financial future.
The scheme is the brainchild of Borussia Monchengladbach fan Ingo Muller, who came up with the idea when he discovered he would be unable to watch his beloved Bundesliga team from the stands.
He has organised almost 14,000 cut-outs of Monchengladbach fans, which will make their first appearance in the stadium in Saturday’s game against Bayer Leverkusen.
Now the people behind the project are in talks with three Premier League clubs about having cut-outs in stadiums when top-flight action resumes, according to The Sun.
The publication reports that two of the teams are in the top half of the table, and that top sporting bodies such as the NBA and MLS have also shown an interest.
Muller said orders for cut-outs were rapidly increasing as sport prepares to return behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was my wife’s idea,” the 51-year-old film-maker said in quotes reported by The Sun.
“We should have played at Eintracht Frankfurt two months ago. The match was suspended.
“We were in quarantine in Berlin. I was sitting in the kitchen, complaining, whining about the fact I couldn’t watch football on a Saturday afternoon.
“My wife said: ‘Ingo, get a picture taken of yourself, put it in the stadium and somehow if there are matches without public you are there, supporting the team.’
“I thought about the concept for an hour or two. We talked with club officials and the following week they generously said: ‘The lawn is ours, the stadium is yours.’
“We expected 500-2,000 cardboards at the beginning. Now we are looking at 20,000 orders at €19 (£17) over the next few weeks.”
For Muller the project is a silent protest, as he doesn’t believe sport should be returning without the fans.
“As soon as the fans can go back to the stadium, we will throw a huge party and then they can pick up their own cardboards and keep it as a memory,” he said.
“On one hand, I’m proud the idea is working. It’s a symbol of protest that we are here but we cannot be here. We’re against matches without the public.
“Jock Stein used to say, ‘Football is nothing without fans.’ And this is what we feel, too. I’m sad I cannot be there, screaming my guts out, supporting my team.”
The Sun reports that non-league club Lewes FC is in talks over using the cut-outs as a crowdfunding tool as they face a tough financial climate in the wake of the pandemic.
Tom Hickson, co-founder of ‘Stay at Home – Be at the Game’, told The Sun: “We are in talks with some Premier League clubs, the NBA and MLS in America.
“And we’d invite other clubs and sports bodies big and small to get in touch and get involved.
“We’ve everything in place. This project will give the fans a boost, the club some revenue and NHS donations in the fight against Covid-19.”
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