With an estimated 4 billion fans, the most popular sport in the world is undoubtedly football or soccer as it is called in North America. Each professional soccer match brings in more than $50 million. However, like most professional sports affected by COVID-19, sports earnings decreased this past year. In the United States, some of the first COVID-19 outbreaks were among sports teams, eventually leading to the cancellation of games for the first half of quarantine. Though it felt like it took forever, stadiums reopened for games to recommence, only with no fans in attendance. Now, as the world has gotten a better understanding of how the coronavirus spreads and how to protect themselves, some sporting events are allowing minimal amounts of fans into stadiums.
But still, countless fans are left wanting more. During times of stress and uncertainty, having a team to cheer on can lift spirits. Recognizing just how important it is to find a way to engage fans in matches, making them feel like they are there in the stadium to watch their favorite players compete, drones are being used to capture unparalleled views of the action happening on the field. On Saturday, October 24, 2020, the first ever El Clásico was filmed and broadcast live with the help of drones in Barcelona.
FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are ranked as two of the most successful, wealthiest, and popular soccer teams in the world. The meeting of the two rivals, El Clásico, is one of the highest viewed sporting events each year. The 2020 La Liga season kicked off on September 12th, with the first El Clásico being held in Spain’s largest stadium, FC Barcelona’s home court, Camp Nou. The next time FC Barcelona and Real Madrid will meet will be on April 11, 2021, at Real Madrid’s stadium, Santiago Bernabéu. Filming and broadcasting the October 24th match was conducted by Overon, a division of one of Europe’s premier audiovisual firms, MEDIAPRO Group.
For more than 20 years Overon has been broadcasting live sports and news events. As stated on their website, “The aim of responding to our customer specific needs and our ability to provision tailor-made state-of-the-art broadcast services enhance our strength and positioning as market leaders for content distribution services all around the world.” For soccer fans around the world hoping to feel a closer connection to the game, “LaLiga’s FC Barcelona – Real Madrid became the first game of its kind in history in which spectators were able to enjoy spectacular live drone footage from Camp Nou,” read a MEDIAPRO press release.
The drones Overon used showed fans a view of the stadium and its surroundings leading up to the game. The footage added to the excitement of the upcoming game, making it feel like you were getting ready to enter the stadium to claim your seat. Then, before the match began, the drones were used to broadcast parts of the pre-game warmups. Drones were also used to capture the teams coming out of the locker rooms as well as the beginning and end of the game. Filming with the drones during the main part of the game was not possible as Overon was already using 2 helicopters to capture aerial footage. While Overon had spent the month leading up to the match obtaining all the necessary waivers from the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Association, airspace regulations still would not permit the drones to fly for the whole game.
The game, filled with countless exciting moments, was won by Real Madrid 3-1, building fan anticipation for the follow-up match in April. The drone broadcast lent to completing the feeling of the experience of watching a soccer game in person. So many people around the world are longing to return to their favorite stadiums. But, until it is safe to do so broadcasters will find ways to bring the stadiums to the fans virtually. Drones provide new and vivid ways of watching sporting events. Finding novel ways to share sporting events also ensures that teams continue to make money as more people tune in to watch live broadcasts. The October 24th El Clásico made history when drones were used, and it will not be the last time Overon uses drones for soccer broadcasts. As drone technology and safety measures continue to progress, drones may soon become the official way to capture aerial footage at sporting events,