Dutch football to test new technology to fight discrimination at Feyenoord, PSV
Pilot programs that use smart technology to combat discrimination in a targeted way are underway in the Feyenoord, PSV and PEC Zwolle football stadiums. The three football clubs are participating in the trials with the national government and the Dutch football association, KNVB. The aim is to be able to better determine with technological aids who is guilty of making discriminatory statements in the stadiums.
The pilot is part of a plan launched after the racist treatment of Excelsior player Ahmad Mendes Moreira by FC Den Bosch supporters at the end of a match in 2019. The attacker left the field in tears. The images went viral, and were shared around the world, prompting the KNVB to continue its fight against racism in football in more varied ways. However, it turned out to be impossible to punish all perpetrators in Den Bosch due to a lack of evidence, because it was difficult to determine who had made the offending statements, noises, and chants.
The State Attorney ruled last year that voice recognition and facial recognition technology should not be used for the purpose of identifying possible perpetrators of racism due to privacy issues. It may serve as supporting evidence.
The initiators of "Our Football is for Everyone," the KNVB plan against discrimination, have asked the business community to help come up with concrete solutions. It has led to three projects, with a possible fourth being added later in the year. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is financing this with a total budget of over one million euros.
In the last weeks of the season that just ended, testing was already carried out at Feyenoord's stadium, De Kuip, at the Philips Stadion where PSV plays, and in the Mac3park Stadion, home to PEC Zwolle and the project will continue next season. In a year's time it should become clear whether smart technology helps to identify racism and discrimination, and how, and whether it contributes to identifying its perpetrators.
At Feyenoord, various combinations of image and sound are being tested. There are acoustic cameras in the PSV stadium, which, on the one hand, measures how enthusiastic the fans are in certain places. On the other hand, the technology can also detect anomalous sound, such as racist comments. New techniques are being used in Zwolle to test how social safety can be improved in the stadium.
"A visit to a football match should be a party for everyone," said KNVB director Marianne van Leeuwen. "Encouragement and rivalry are part of a competition and the experience of it, but there is also a very clear lower limit to what one can say. With this pilot we are taking another step in the fight against discrimination."
Reporting by ANP