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Dutch FA uses smart cameras and AI to tackle discrimination in venues

National government helps finance US$1m trials at PSV, Feyenoord and PEC Zwolle’s stadiums.

13 June 2022 Steve McCaskill
Dutch FA uses smart cameras and AI to tackle discrimination in venues

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  • Philips Stadion to deploy tech to detect discriminatory chanting
  • Feyenoord’s De Kuip will trial tracking innovations to identify causes of discrimination
  • Mobile ticketing rolled out at MAC³Park Stadium to manage crowd safety

The Dutch government, in partnership with domestic soccer stakeholders, are using smart technology to help tackle the issue of fan safety and discrimination in stadiums, staging pilots with three top-flight Eredivisie clubs.

A joint-plan between various stakeholders was launched after video and audio recordings were not deemed as sufficient evidence to bring alleged perpetrators to justice. The project, co-founded by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport co-financing the initiative to the tune of €1 million (US$1 million), will also look to improve the social safety of fans while they are in the stadium.

The partners invited businesses to identify potential technical solutions that would aid evidence gathering whilst adhering to Dutch privacy laws and three of these proposals will be implemented in the trial.

“Discrimination does not belong in sport and in football stadiums. I am glad that these companies, in cooperation with the clubs, are working hard to keep discrimination and offensive speeches out of the stadiums,” said Conny Helder, Dutch sports minister. “Everyone, athletes, volunteers and spectators alike, should be able to enjoy sport and exercise, now and in the future, without hindrance and in a safe environment.”

One pilot will see smart sound cameras deployed at PSV Eindhoven’s Philips Stadion to measure and locate the involvement and enthusiasm of fans in the stands. This information can be fed back to the fans to motivate them to sing louder or encourage the team, while artificial intelligence (AI) can detect abnormal noise such as discriminatory chanting. A human operator can then listen live or to a recording and take action if necessary.

PEC Zwolle, who were relegated to the second tier at the end of the recently-completed Eredivisie season, will use a mobile ticketing system to optimise MAC³Park Stadium access and to inform fans of busy areas in real time at via a dedicated application. The club will also see how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can improve the fan experience, as well as social safety.

Finally, a trial at Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium will use technology to identify the causes behind discriminatory behaviour, how to identify it, and how to nip it in the bud. The technology will also be able to determine the mood of other fans when in proximity to such discrimination.

“Visiting football should be a celebration for everyone. 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 call out: there is no place for discrimination,” said Marianne van Leeuwen, director of professional football at the Royal Netherlands Football Federation (KNVB). “This pilot with new and smart technology is an important part of the [‘Our football belongs to everyone’] plan and with this we take another step in the fight against discrimination.”

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