Despite everything else that’s going on right now, the NRL has found a way to return, with teams playing to largely human-free stands and TV networks piping in fake crowd noise. We say “human-free” stands, because the league has been filling the stands with cardboard cut-outs of fans thanks to their Fan In The Stands initiative, which sees ordinary punters given the opportunity to pay to have their mug printed out and placed in a seat in the stands in a bid to bring the viewing audience at home a little closer to the action.

However, in news that will likely shock anyone tangentially familiar with the processes of the NRL, it would appear that that initiative has gone horrendously bung in just a handful of days, with people at home taking advantage of some apparently lax moderation standards.

During last night’s Penrith vs Newcastle clash, broadcasting channel Fox League cut to a shot of the cardboard heads in the crowd. In the process, accidentally revealing that someone had apparently snuck one of history’s worst serial killers into the ground.

The “crowd” shot captured the head of what viewers quickly identified as Dr. Harold Shipman, sitting in amongst other ordinary cardboard fans in the stands.

Shipman, for those of you unwilling to scoot on over to the Wikipedia page, was a British general practitioner who, in 2000, was found guilty of murdering 15 patients that had been in his care. But estimates assert his total number of victims may be around the 250 mark, which would make him the most prolific serial killer in modern history. Shipman took his own life in his prison cell in 2004. The bulk of the United Kingdom’s legal structure regarding health care was reviewed and modified as a direct result of Shipman’s actions.

Somehow, the Fan In The Stands ballyhoo only got worse from there.

Following the conclusion of the weekend’s games, Fox League programming shifted to The Matty Johns Show, who attempted to skewer the cardboard cutouts by Photoshopping an image of Hitler onto one of them.

At the absolutely least, you can maybe forgive an NRL employee for not instantly recognising that a rather plain-looking man happened to be history’s worst serial killer. But knowingly dropping Hitler in for a gee up is something else entirely.

Footy’s back, folks. You love to see it.