The rise of Audio Description in sports

Published Date
08/09/2016
Author

At Trailblazers, we want to see spectator sports accessible and inclusive to all. Our new report Move the Goal Posts found that over a quarter of young disabled people surveyed want to see more audio commentary at sports venues.  Alan March Sport Ltd provides “the sound and vision of sports events” and works to improve disabled spectators’ experiences. One way it does this is to provide audio commentary services to stadiums.

Trailblazers spoke to Alan March, founder of Alan March Sport Ltd, and he tells us why audio commentary is important to disabled spectators.

Can you provide a brief overview of what audio description within sport is? How does it differ from regular commentary?

When you turn on the radio to listen to a game, sometimes the commentators will be talking about themselves, their careers, the manager, the subs, maybe the latest player linked with Chelsea in the window, what car window Harry Redknapp is looking out from! All these things are interesting, but all the time the ball is moving! The great Brian Clough once said, “it only takes a second to score a goal”; with that in mind, it can be easily missed! A spectator attending the game has the joy of hearing the crowd roar (or groan depending on the performance); they can be a part of the atmosphere, chant, spend time with their friends or family and all the time AD commentary is filling their ears and minds, painting an image with passionate descriptive movements of the players, the direction of the ball, never missing the next step by indulging in personal tales, allowing the listener to follow every one of the steps it can take to “walk the ball into the back of the net” or realise just how much of a “screamer” that strike truly is. It doesn’t catch them off guard, it isn’t a surprise the ball has gone from the left to the right in one swift pass. AD commentary’s big strength, if done well, is keeping pace with the ball, with the correct emotion for the type of play and being “on the ball” when the defining moments happen. All the things that people take for granted who aren’t blind or partially sighted. Things that can be missed or perceived unimportant to those that don’t know the difficulties some face, trying to enjoy “the beautiful game”.

The Audio Description Commentary Team seen during the pre season friendly between Crawley Town and Fulham at the Checkatrade.com Stadium in Crawley. July 18, 2015 James Boardman / TELEPHOTO IMAGES 07967642437

James Boardman / TELEPHOTO IMAGES

Is audio commentary mainly used in football or is it used cross-sports? 

Football seems to be the big taker of the service to date however Alan March Sport Ltd was extremely proud to train and supply audio describers to 17 sports during the 2014 commonwealth games as well as deliver training elements of audio description before the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the 2015 Rugby World Cup”

Do you find venues receptive to having audio commentary or do you feel venues aren’t really aware of why it is important?

I have personally commentated at Huddersfield, Doncaster Rovers and Nottingham Forest, as well as Alan March Sport Ltd training and providing AD commentators for Crawley Town, Portsmouth and Leicester City and we find that once the hard work of getting through the door is achieved all of these clubs and their blind and partially sighted supporters have been nothing but impressed with the quality and commitment of the commentators as well as the easy to use equipment.

How do you think venues generally stand in understanding access requirements?

Our only dealing with access is through AD, so it would be unfair to cast an overall judgement however we still find it a struggle to convince clubs of the benefits of AD Commentary

What more can be done to improve access for disabled people within sports grounds?

Our dream is for people to be given AD as standard when they attend sport. Home or away fan, this service should be accessible to all.

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