Blind rugby fans enjoy Toulon match day

Fans at Stade Mayol got close to the action with audio-description technology

Blind and visually impaired visitors to Toulon rugby club got closer than ever to the action last weekend, thanks to an audio description service laid on by the club.

The 23-14 victory over Castres at the famously raucous Stade Mayol was nothing exceptional for the star-studded team in red and black, but for the 30 or so fans who enjoyed the game while rigged up to a headset with bespoke commentary, it provided a special experience.

By using an in-ear audio system, not only can the blind or visually impaired listen to what is going on on the field of play, but it also allows those accompanying them to enjoy the game without the need to describe the scene and the action. It was a first for the club, aided by the Var’s association for the blind (UDV83).

Audio description is different to standard commentary from TV or radio as it also provides insight into what is going on around the ground, the description of the stadium, the general atmosphere, the colours and so on. It is continuous, with no adverts, and it relays very precise details to the layman, meaning newcomers to the sport can get an instant feel for match day.

One such new fan at Stade Mayol was visually impaired Daniel Tisman, who described himself as “not very rugby”. He was very impressed: "I can say it is like seeing the match," he said afterwards.

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What pleased him most, however, was the atmosphere: "Sometimes I lowered the sound to listen around me... People are passionate, they live it from the pit of their stomachs!

“And to experience Pilou-Pilou live is something!" he added, referring to the pre-match rallying cry created in the 1940s, which whips the home fans into a frenzy of passionate support.

Another rugby novice, Ouda, said she finally got to grips with the laws of the game. "Three or four years ago, I went to see Toulon against Agen with my son. He explained things to me, but I understood nothing!” she said.

Ouda appreciated the accuracy of the description, provided by the technical manager of Toulon’s Le Liberté theatre: "He described the pitch, the lines... I thought it was the same as a football pitch, I did not imagine things well!”

She was also able to listen to the referee’s microphone thanks to a feed from Canal+. “We understood well what happened during the scrums," she said.

UDV83 director Thierry Jamen told The Connexion that the day had been “a great experience for everyone and we hope to do it again next season.”  It cannot be made a regular feature, however, as the stadium is not yet equipped - Le Liberté theatre provided the equipment as a one-off.

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