MLB

Fake Fans in the Stands Are Causing Real Problems for Teams

Here’s hoping that the San Francisco Giants know what they’re getting themselves into with their plan to use cardboard cutouts of fans during MLB games at Oracle Park this summer. While Leeds United soccer players are showing themselves worthy of promotion to the English Premier League next season, the club’s stadium staff is proving to not be ready for prime time.

And that’s an ominous warning for the Giants.

Home games don’t feel the same these days

Leeds United's Jack Harrison celebrates scoring the team's third goal during the match vs. Fulham. | Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images
Leeds United’s Jack Harrison celebrates scoring the team’s third goal during the match vs. Fulham. | Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images

RELATED: COVID-19 Is Forcing a World Series Champ to Choose Between Family and Career

The major American sports leagues haven’t returned to action yet after having their seasons suspended or postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Team executives have presumably been taking notes on how foreign leagues have gone about resuming their seasons, because there are a few things to watch out for when it comes to hosting games without fans present.

For instance, creating a more pleasing atmosphere by using mannequins and cardboard cutouts in field-side seats might not be the way to go. A South Korean soccer team learned that the hard way in mid-May during its K-League home opener.

FC Seoul drew the wrath of league officials when it turned out that approximately 20 of the supposed mannequins placed inside Seoul World Cup Stadium were actually sex dolls. Though the dolls were dressed in team jerseys or T-shirts, television viewers didn’t have difficulty determining that something was amiss.

The K-League fined FC Seoul 100 million won – approximately $81,000 – to set a record for disciplinary action.

The San Francisco Giants have a fun idea for home games

RELATED: Michael Jordan Is the Only Thing Going Right for Nike During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Knowing they could go the whole summer without fans at home games when the MLB season starts in late July, the San Francisco Giants still want to remain engaged with season-ticket holders. The Giants announced June 25 that season-ticket holders can send an image of themselves to be placed onto a cutout that will be displayed in the stands.

The team said the cutouts will be made of weatherproof material and will be placed as close to the fans’ reserved seats as possible. Fans not holding season tickets can participate by paying a $99 fee.

While on the surface that seems like a fun way to keep connected with fans during an unprecedented time, the Giants will need to be on the alert for mischief. The Leeds United soccer team in England’s Championship League – just one notch below the prestigious Premier League – found that out the hard way last week.

The San Francisco Giants will need to be on the alert

These are exciting days for supporters of Leeds United. With the season coming down the homestretch, the team holds first place in the 24-team Championship League. A 10-point cushion over fourth-place Fulham with seven matches remaining means the team is almost certainly heading for promotion to the English Premier League, one of the best leagues on the planet, next season.

Leeds resumed its home schedule on June 21 with a contest against Cardiff City with no fans present because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The club had encouraged fans to send in photos to be used on cutouts, similar to what the San Francisco Giants say they’ll do this MLB season.

Well, someone ponied up the $30 fee and sent Leeds United a picture of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, and no one from the club realized they had been pranked. Worse yet, the cutout of Bin Laden appeared in the front row inside Elland Road Stadium. A Leeds representative apologized and assured the public that the team “will ensure there are no more offensive images” during future games.

Oh, if only they were that lucky.

Leeds United got pranked again

The June 27 soccer match didn’t go much better for Leeds United. Six days after the Osama Bin Laden cutout was seen at a home game, the club found itself being pranked again.

Joseph Schreibvogel, better known to fans of Tiger King on Netflix as Joe Exotic, showed up on a cutout at Elland Road Stadium as Leeds United took on Fulham.

Of course, appearing in person for the 3-0 victory that pushed Leeds United closer to promotion to the English Premier League wasn’t an option for Schreibvogel. He was convicted on multiple federal charges in 2019, including murder for hire, and is serving a 22-year sentence.