Packaging company DS Smith has announced it will be the first US manufacturer to provide recyclable cardboard cut-outs of fans at sports venues in the country, with Major League Baseball (MLB) team San Francisco Giants stating it will look to fill Oracle Park in this manner for the 2020 season.

A leading provider of sustainable corrugated packaging, DS Smith has readied production of recyclable cardboard replacement fans for use at venues forced to limit attendance of the real thing.

DS Smith has launched design and manufacturing plans, which includes an initial approach to the National Basketball Association (NBA), MLB and Major League Soccer (MLS).

Barry Nelson, managing director of sales, marketing and innovation for the North America Packaging and Paper Division of DS Smith, said: “We look to sports as a unifier, and that’s been missing. We want to help solve that.

“By using a versatile material like cardboard, we can support teams across the country to design a unique atmosphere while fans stay home to maintain social distancing because of the coronavirus.”

In the UK, DS Smith is already producing customised, branded ‘fans,’ made of recycled, corrugated material. The sight of fan cut-outs has been a common one in football leagues across Europe, as seasons have restarted following the COVID-19 shutdown.

Nelson said that besides approaching US pro leagues, DS Smith will reach out to universities, high schools and others eager to fill their seats.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reports the Giants sent notices to their season-ticket holders yesterday (Thursday) introducing a program through which fans’ images could be on display at Oracle Park for the shortened 2020 MLB season.

The Giants Fan Cutout Program will be provided at no extra charge for season-ticket holders who choose to roll over their funds to 2021. The cutouts will be placed as close to the fans’ actual seats as possible. Those without season tickets can pay $99 (£80/€88) to be part of the campaign.

Season-ticket holders who prefer to receive account credit will have a 5% credit attached to the costs of remaining home games, applicable to the 2021 packages.

MLB this week set out plans to commence its delayed 2020 regular season on either July 23 or July 24 in empty stadia, seemingly ending months of acrimony between itself and players’ union the MLBPA over how best to stage the campaign amid COVID-19.

MLB’s 2020 season was due to have commenced on March 26, but will now consist of a 60-game regular season leading into the playoffs. The regular season was due to have 162 games over 186 days, and the new schedule will be MLB’s shortest since 1878.

Image: San Francisco Giants