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Football Clubs to Test Audio Description

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from E-Access Bulletin, Issue 69, September 2005.

As the new football season gets into its stride, a coordinated effort has begun to provide vision-impaired fans with wireless audio description in more stadiums, including those of lower league clubs.

Coca Cola league clubs, Brighton and Hove Albion, Bristol City, Cardiff City, Doncaster Rovers, Huddersfield Town, Swansea City and Nationwide Conference side Halifax Town are to test such services, E-Access Bulletin has learned. The clubs, working in partnership with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind), aim to have the equipment installed and volunteer commentators in place by the end of the year.

At present, the quality of audio description services is patchy, if it is provided at all. In many cases, only a small number of headsets are available, particularly for away fans, and only at restricted locations in the stadium, which often means that families and groups of friends have to split up. Wireless technology can deliver the service to all seats in the ground.

Where no audio description services are provided, many vision-impaired fans are forced to rely on radio commentary, but this can be frustrating.

"The trouble with radio commentary is the regular interruptions while reports come in from other matches, other sports, or even traffic updates," said Eleanor Ellison of the RNIB. According to Ellison, most Premiership clubs now provide some form of audio description service, but the RNIB is keen to see all of them install the latest wireless equipment.

With the surge of interest in cricket following England's victory over Australia in the Ashes, the RNIB is hopeful that at least some cricket grounds will follow suit.

"We've had discussions with the people at Lords, the Oval and Sussex Cricket Club," said Ellison. Later this year, the institute will partner with the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) to put together a team of volunteer commentators for all the sports venues testing the technology.

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