In the Netherlands, we will use technology to fight against racism in football stadiums

Pilot projects testing the use of smart technology against discrimination and racism at the stadium have been launched at three Dutch top division clubs, the Dutch football federation (KNVB) announced on Wednesday. Three projects are underway at the Feyenoord (Rotterdam), PSV (Eindhoven) and PEC (Zwolle) stadiums, and a fourth could be launched this year, the KNVB said in a statement.

So far, “video images available in combination with sound recordings have too often failed as evidence” of discrimination, noted the Dutch federation. “After one year, it should be clear whether and how this smart technology supports the identification of racism and discrimination and/or contributes to the identification of those involved”she added.

PSV, for example, is testing the use of sound cameras in the stadium to measure and localize the commitment and enthusiasm of supporters, who could also, thanks to artificial intelligence, simultaneously detect sound “unnatural”such as a racist comment, which could be listened to live or delayed and incite action if necessary.

“Other techniques, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, will also be used to improve […] social security in the stadium”said the KNVB.

The pilot projects are co-financed by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, which has injected more than one million euros. They are part of a larger plan called “our football belongs to everyone”set up after the racist treatment at the end of 2019 by FC Den Bosch supporters of former Excelsior player Ahmad Mendes Moreira, who had run away from the field crying.

With these, “we are taking a new step in the fight against discrimination” praised Marianne van Leeuwen, director of professional football at the KNVB, quoted in the press release. A study of some 118 professional footballers, many of whom played in the honor division, found that 40% had experienced racism and other forms of discrimination, the daily Algemeen Dagblad reported last year.

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