Is Google+ Front Row the beginning of the end for match going fans?

Manchester United play Liverpool at Old Trafford tomorrow and it’s going to provide a footballing first  as live fan reactions will be broadcast pitchside as part of a new partnership between Google and the current Premier League champions.

And there was me hoping the footballing first would be BOTH opposing teams losing the match.

The rise of the virtual fan?

Anyway, the new initiative will be called Front Row, is powered by Google+ Hangouts and it seems the idea behind it is to give fans from all over the world a more participatory interest in the game – something that ‘traditional’ fans could consider to be the thin end of the wedge, as it ushers in a whole new breed of ‘virtual’ fan.

How long before empty seats at football grounds are filled by these virtual fans? It seems far fetched but as matchday revenue becomes less and less important in a financial model supported by inflated broadcasting and sponsorship deals, matchgoing fans will, inevitably, become less and less important.

No need to police virtual fans. No need to provide them with food and drink. And the ‘atmosphere’ can be turned up or down as and when it is required – no dissenting voices, no obscene chanting.

It does sound like some far fetched dystopian footballing future but I wouldn’t bet against as more clubs become ‘franchises’ and chase money across the globe.

How to become a virtual fan

To become a virtual fan at United, fans must upload a photograph to their Google+ account demonstrating their “love, passion and commitment” to the team and mark it with the #MUFrontRow hashtag.

So, presumably, it’ll be a collection of fans from around the world, bedecked in official MUFC merchandise – tattoos and badge kissing are optional but preferred – showing their commitment by, well, sitting there and clapping when necessary – no Salford headcases here, please, we’re not British.

A United statement on the initiative said: “For the first time in football, supporters will be streamed live onto the pitchside hoardings, thanks to Google+ Hangouts – the free multi-person video call feature”

“They will be able to show their backing directly to their beloved team, roaring David Moyes’s men on in a massive fixture. We can’t wait to meet the global Reds who will make history as one of the very first Front Row fans in world football.”

Those chosen for Front Row will receive a professional photograph of their video appearance at Old Trafford, as well as a mention on the United Google+ account.

And you can watch a video on the thing, here: 

What do you make of the Google+ foray into the world of football fandom? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #CCVirtualFans

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