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2 September, 2020 - 21:10 By Tony Quested

Fan-tastic as carve-a-crowd firm bends it like Beckham

The company is based near the horse racing capital of the UK but sustainable packaging firm DS Smith looks cut out for global glory by providing cardboard crowds for a host of fan-starved sports from soccer to baseball.

With an impressive facility at Fordham near Newmarket, DS Smith tells Business Weekly it is in early stage discussions with a number of potential customers across Europe and North America. 

Its cardboard fans can be used for any sports and the company is offering potential customers multiple solutions that can be customised for their particular needs. It’s the ultimate crowd funding initiative!

With fans currently locked out of sports stadia because of COVID-19, the international packaging giant has become the epitome of a box-to-box player, to borrow a soccer euphemism.

Known for creating boxes for all manner of industries and uses, DS Smith  initially produced a solution for football clubs seeking to fill stadia quickly, reliably, and sustainably, at the last minute. 

From the Bundesliga and Serie A to the Premier League, sports leagues across Europe are back in action post lockdown, but sans the fans.

With average weekly attendance in excess of 39,300 fans in England’s Premier League alone, social distancing has left fans relegated to the sofa leaving sports’ stadia empty. 

To create some much-needed atmosphere, DS Smith has developed its ‘Return to Sport’ range, a series of customisable and fully recyclable options for sports clubs on both sides of the Atlantic.

Its customised crowds can be bought entirely online  and a specially trained team can help to design and deliver them anywhere there is a market. 

The range includes bespoke crowds, able to withstand temperamental local climates, as well as social distancing solutions to help visitors observe local legislations.

Each bespoke ‘fan’ is made from recycled materials and designed to easily slip over existing stadium seating. They can be ‘dressed’ in specific club colours.

As a result of DS Smith’s digital print capabilities, the range can be custom printed to celebrate individual fans’ faces or messages of support and represent team colours, sponsors, or charitable partnerships.  

James Lomax, football fan and the company’s sales, marketing and innovation director said: “Sport is an integral part of many people’s lives and by using a versatile material like cardboard we can support clubs to create a unique atmosphere while fans stay home to support social distancing. 

“Our ‘Back to Sport’ range is the ideal sustainable solution providing clubs with a blank canvas that can be fully customised, while also ensuring the material can be reused or recycled.”

The range is scalable from a lone fan to a full house of up to 100,000 supporters and can be on the road within days. Due to the durability and recyclability of the cardboard materials, individual fans can be gifted or auctioned to fans eager to have a piece of the action or put into the local recycling system via DS Smith’s own curb-side collections.

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