The campaign culminated in the introduction of special haptic shirts which can transform the atmosphere of the 52,000-capacity St James’ Park into real-time touch sensations that enable deaf fans and fans with hearing loss to experience the atmosphere of a football match in a completely new way.

The landmark activation saw fans and the match day mascots, all of whom are deaf or have hearing loss, wearing replica match shirts embedded with haptic technology during Newcastle’s emphatic 4-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on 13th April.

Speaking at the time, Ibrahim Mohtaseb, Senior Vice President of Sela, said, “As a live experiences and events company, championing technology which provides spectacular experiences for all fans is a cornerstone to what we endeavour to achieve as Newcastle United’s principle partner.

“We’re therefore thrilled to have driven today’s initiative with the club and RNID to ensure the atmosphere of St. James’ Park can be truly felt by those who are deaf and have hearing loss.

The same game was also witness to a heartwarming moment when defender Dan Burn celebrated the club’s first goal in the match by signing ‘love the fans’ in British Sign Language, a phrase which he was taught by Junior Deaf Football Club members during an impromptu kickabout in the days prior to the match.

David Wilson, one of the fans wearing a Sela-conceived haptic shirt on the day, said “What a game, what a day, what a shirt. I felt part of the singing, part of the stadium. The vibrations just continued through the full game. We felt involved in all the goals and all the singing, so I just want to say thank you.”

Fellow fan Ryan Gregson added, “That’s the best top ever. We felt the music, the singing, everything was included all in the top; it was brilliant. At 4-0, vibrations were amazing. I’m so happy, I would like to wear it every game.”

Following research gathered by RNID, which revealed 71% of people surveyed believe new technology can be used to improve the matchday experience and make live sporting events more accessible, the film also reflects on Sela’s donation of its front-of-shirt sponsorship to the national charity, making it the first time a hearing loss charity has been promoted on the front of a Premier League shirt.

Experiences for everyone

To ensure the legacy of the Unsilence the Crowd campaign, Sela has further committed to providing the haptic shirt technology at all future Newcastle home games, with a hope that its actions will inspire football clubs across the Premier League, Europe, and beyond to build on efforts to improve accessibility.

And, to that end, Sela will be taking the technology on tour over the coming months to showcase the innovation in markets across the globe, with interested organisations encouraged to visit to learn more.

Regarding the ambition to improve accessibility for football fans across the globe, Mohtaseb said, “We would welcome the whole football family to join us by adopting the technology. By acting now, we can collectively make watching live football matches an incredible experience for everyone who loves the game.”

Teri Devine, Director for Inclusion at RNID, added, “One in five adults in the UK are deaf or have hearing loss, but people often face barriers in everyday life – including in live sports events. It’s fantastic to see Sela and Newcastle United leading the way in championing this technology which has the potential to have a real and lasting impact on how people who are deaf and have hearing loss experience live sports.

“We’re excited to be part of this collaboration and we hope this exposure opens up conversations amongst football fans about hearing loss and encourages other football clubs to raise their game and make sure deaf fans are fully included.”

A history of sporting achievement

The success of the Unsilence the Crowd campaign is one of many for Sela. Founded in 1997 as Saudi Arabia’s first FIFA-recognised player representation company, in 2009 the Jeddah-headquartered company led the commercial and operational arm of the Saudi Premier League and has has gone on to work with many of the world’s major sports properties, including Formula E, WWE and the SuperCoppa.

More recently the company has evolved to become a leader in the conception, creation and delivery of spectacular experiences and destinations, and in October 2023 grabbed headlines again with a spectacular drone display which announced Newcastle United’s return to the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.

This article was originally written by Tom Love for Sports Industry Biz. Read the original article here.