For the first time in world football, the Football Association (FA) has confirmed that bodycams will be trialled by referees across four English leagues this season, reports The Guardian. The tech features forward-facing screens so abusers can see themselves being recorded and will be supplied by UK firm Reveal Media, which already supplies British police.
As with body-worn cameras elsewhere, the aim is to reduce the amount of abuse the wearer receives. The FA hopes to see how cameras on referees affects behavior among players and coaches.
A survey of more than 900 referees in England by the BBC, announced last week, found that 293 had been physically abused by spectators, players, coaches or managers. Almost all had encountered verbal abuse. 375 had received personal abuse on aspects such as their gender, race, appearance or sexual orientation.
The grassroots (local) leagues trialling it are in Liverpool, Worcester, Essex and Middlesborough and involve around 100 referees. The trial began over the weekend in Middlesborough.
Back in October 2022, the FA asked the International Football Association Board (Ifab), the sport’s lawmakers, for permission to start the trial. An FA spokesman said at the time: “We will be tracking the impact of the trial on behaviour and, if it’s successful, will look to roll it out nationally and internationally.”
The model selected is the KS4 camera, designed to “withstand the rigours of match play” according to the firm. “The act of wearing a Reveal body-worn camera has been shown to deter poor behaviour. Once the aggressor is warned and the recording feature is switched on, the signature front-facing screen comes into play,” states a release.
Alasdair Field, Reveal CEO, has first-hand knowledge: “I experienced the issue of abuse directed towards officials personally when I refereed for under 10s football for a couple of years and ultimately the amount of abuse I received destroyed the enjoyment and led me to giving up.
“Understanding that this was a rampant problem led to us adapting our camera for the requirements of match play as I could envision our front-facing screen technology having real potential to de-escalate situations and even deter them from happening.”
This could prove lucrative for Reveal. British police forces have been testing retrospective facial recognition software from the firm and around two-thirds of police forces in England and Wales are already using its bodycams. Other product lines are capable of real time facial recognition.