Newcastle United introduces “sound shirts” for deaf fans

Jun 5, 2024 | News

Newcastle United and St James’ Park have collaborated to create shirts that will allow deaf supporters to ‘feel’ noise for the first time.

The roaring of the crowd as they react to a match-winning goal is an unforgettable sporting moment. Now, deaf fans are able to ‘feel’ this electric atmosphere in the stadium thanks to sensory “sound shirts”.

Newcastle United’s kit sponsor Sela and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People developed a world-first technology with the RNID to make live football accessible to people who have hearing loss.

It uses microphones around St James’ Park to convert noise into digital sounds. The data is wirelessly transmitted to shirts with haptic technology, which provides the same sensory feedback as typing on your smartphone. This allows you to experience stadium noise by touching them.

The Unsilence the Crowd initiative is designed to provide a more inclusive football experience for the deaf. The RNID conducted research that found that nearly three-quarters (75%) of people with hearing loss or deafness believe haptics will improve their match-day experience.

David Wilson and Ryan Gregson, both lifelong Magpies fans, were among the first people to road test the new kit. They watched their team defeat raiders Tottenham 4-0 in April and declared it an incredible win. Gregson, using a sign language translator, said, “For the very first time, I feel 100% included.” “To experience noise through vibration was wonderful.”

“I’ve felt nothing like it,” Wilson added.

The haptics hidden on the shirt indicate specific crowd reactions. Vibrations on the sleeves of the shirt indicate that the home team is singing. A buzzing sound in the shirt’s back indicates an away goal. Gregson jokingly said, “It was very silent round the back.”

The shirts on match day. Image: Owen Humphreys/PA Media

Sela, an events and marketing company from Saudi Arabia, will offer the technology at all Newcastle home matches, and hopes that more clubs will follow suit.

“We welcome the entire football family to adopt the technology and join us.” “By acting now, we will collectively make watching football matches live an incredible experience for all who love the game,” said Sela Vice President Ibrahim Mohtaseb.

For the first time I felt 100% included. It was wonderful to experience the sound through vibration.

Teri Devine is the director for inclusion at RNID. She said: “One in five adult UK citizens are deaf, or have hearing loss. But people often face barriers, including during live sports events.” It’s great to see Sela, Newcastle United and others leading the way to champion this technology that has the potential to make a real impact on the lives of people with hearing loss and deafness.

Main Image: Lucy Ray/PAMedia

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