Deaf football fans will be touched by Geordie noise at Premier League clash

Special shirts may hint at a future full of sensory clothing.

Peter WIX, Published on 12 April 2024

Deaf football fans will be touched by Geordie noise at Premier League clash

A key element of the thrill of live sport – its sounds and noise – is inaccessible to people with deafness or hearing loss. But at a UK Premier League football match this weekend, this population segment will literally feel the noise.

St. James Park is the home of football club Newcastle United, whose teams play in front of fervent crowds generating a noise that drowns every other, even the sound of the referee’s whistle. Since 2021, the club has been (controversially) owned 80% by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. The money from that deal means Newcastle now have the squad to push for top places in the league.

And at 12:30 this Saturday, April 13, the Geordie club play at home to London club, Tottenham Hotspur, whose long trip up north makes for a clash that can influence final league places rewarded by participation in European competition next season. For a group of specially selected deaf football fans, however, the Newcastle-Spurs game will be remembered for a set of different sensations.

A shirt that allows you to feel the atmosphere

Wearing special haptic Newcastle shirts – the home team play in black-and-white stripes and are, therefore, nicknamed the Magpies – these fans will be able to feel the noise. The shirts transform the sound intensity in the stadium into real-time touch sensation. Fans and the match day mascots, who are deaf or have hearing loss, will be wearing the shirts in the stands.

Behind this special gift, for which front-of-shirt sponsors Sela and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) have collaborated, is a desire to inspire other football clubs to make the experience more inclusive for deaf people and people with hearing loss. It is, in effect, an exciting awareness action, one given extra resonance by research gathered by RNID revealing that 71% of people surveyed who are deaf and have hearing loss believe new technology can be used to improve the matchday experience and make live sporting events more accessible.

Consider that datum in the light of other recent research – commissioned by the chocolate company Cadbury – that suggests half of deaf fans (55 per cent) believe their experiences at live sporting events are restricted due to a lack of deaf awareness, with 34 per cent saying they often feel lonely or left out as it is hard to interact with other fans.

The awareness campaign “Unsilence The Crowd”

The Unsilence The Crowd campaign follows the journey of lifelong Newcastle United fans, Ryan and David, who are both deaf and use British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate. They have been coming to St. James’ Park to support Newcastle United since they were children and on Saturday 13 April, they will be experiencing the legendary atmosphere of St. James’ Park through haptic shirts for the first time ever.

As Teri Devine, Director for Inclusion at RNID, points out: “One in five adults in the UK are deaf or have hearing loss, but people often face barriers in everyday life – including in live sports events. It’s fantastic to see Sela and Newcastle United leading the way in championing this technology which has the potential to have a real and lasting impact on how people who are deaf and have hearing loss experience live sports.”

Hope that the campaign will enjoy success is echoed strongly by  Teri Devine, Director for Inclusion at RNID:

“This inspiring campaign is highly innovative and the first-of-its-kind. Unsilence the Crowd fills everybody associated with this initiative with deep pride, from all Newcastle United, Newcastle United Foundation, Sela and RNID, along with all stakeholders who have helped make this possible.

“We believe that “Unsilence the Crowd” will be truly game-changing for football and expect this campaign will revolutionise the football experience for any fan who is deaf or has hearing loss, regardless of which team they support.”

Source: RNID

 

 

 

 

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