As Japan’s sports teams prepare for a cautious return to action after hiatuses caused by COVID-19, a company has developed an app that allows fans to cheer remotely as their teams play in empty stadiums.

Nippon Professional Baseball is scheduled to resume on July 19 and the J. League is expected to start a couple of weeks later, but no fans will be allowed into stadiums amid fears of new coronavirus infections.

The Remote Cheerer system lets fans watching matches on television in their living rooms cheer, or boo, the players on the pitch via their smartphones, sending either a pre-recorded shoutout or their own personal message.

The voices they send will reverberate around the stadium in real time, transmitted by giant loudspeakers.

Yamaha Corporation, which has developed the app, recently tested the system at the 50,000 capacity Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA, which is mainly used for soccer, with two J. League clubs, Jubilo Iwata and Shimizu S-Pulse, taking part in the trial.

Fans watching on television were able to send their support through 58 speakers around the ground. Viewers can decide which speaker will broadcast their cheer.

“At one point during the system field test, I closed my eyes and it felt like the cheering fans were right there in the stadium with me,” said Keisuke Matsubayashi, an official with the stadium company.

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