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Arup Acoustics cranks up the atmosphere at football stadia

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Engineers at Arup are working on a concept to improve the performance of top footballers by manipulating and enhancing crowd noise from home supporters' areas, writes David Taylor.

Acoustics specialist Raj Patel told the AJ last week that he is working on a scheme with a Premiership club that raises the amount of crowd noise in a stadium by recording it and relaying it back simultaneously through speakers, amplifying the effect. Using speakers installed at the away supporters' end only, clubs could even use the technology to demoralise fans of opposing teams.

Patel said the work was only at 'concept' stage and refused to name the club involved, but the idea was definitely not proposed for Wembley, where the old stadium's acoustic conditions had contributed to its tired and outdated feel. The mixture of roof design and the distance between fans from the action had contributed to crowd noise dissipating into the ether, rather than being reflected back to enhance the occasion.

The concept might prove useful to other clubs, such as Southampton, which is moving into a new 32,000 seater stadium next season after more than 100 years at The Dell. Although it rapidly became uneconomic, The Dell, with its cramped, 15,000seat capacity, was considered to have a hostile atmosphere which the club wants to maintain.

Arup Acoustics now has 100 staff and was the joint host of an event last week on the subject of technical innovation. It showed off a range of new technologies, including those involved with the acoustic performance of Foster and Partners' shelllike £60 million Music Centre at Gateshead, which is set to be completed next autumn.

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