Why video and sports arenas are a match made in heaven

Jul 25, 2016

Soccer Field.jpgThe Union of European Football Associations recently concluded its quadrennial championship, the European Championship or better known as Euro 2016, which is the world's second most high-profile soccer tournament after the FIFA World Cup. Portugal was victorious over host nation France, winning 1-0 in extra time. The tournament was notable for its perceived low quality of play, with many matches decided on very late goals or via penalty shootouts after long stretches of exhausting defensive play.

How was video used at UEFA Euro 2016?

Meanwhile, advanced video solutions played a central role in ensuring safety as well as accurate officiating throughout the competition:

  • This year's UEFA Euro was the first edition of the event to feature video-enhanced goal line technology. In the past, there had been many incidents (most notably, a controversial and ultimately decisive goal in the 1966 FIFA World Cup final between England and West Germany) in which on-field referees could not tell whether a ball completely crossed the line, which it must do in order to be rightly counted as a goal. Using strategically placed video cameras and replays, officiating crews were able to see instantly if a goal should have been allowed.
  • There were several instances of hooliganism at Euro 2016, which prompted UEFA to threaten a few countries with expulsion from the event if their partisans did not dial down their actions. After a particularly contentious incident in Marseille, the French government utilized photos and video footage to make more than 40 arrests. Its actions prompted German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to then call for the similar implementation of more video cameras at sporting events in Germany, according to Yahoo! Sports.

As we can see, video has become an increasingly important part of the sporting experience, even on the biggest stages such as international soccer competitions that are watched by millions. While technologies such as video replay boards and on-site television cameras have been fixtures at soccer, basketball, baseball and other types of sports stadiums for decades, it is only in recent years that video in general has evolved into an essential tool for safety and fair play.

Why video solutions are now a must-have at sporting venues

Live sports, as well as events such as music concerts that are held at the same stadiums, have been resilient in the age of time-shifted TV viewing and on-demand entertainment options. They also continue to draw enormous crowds of fans and spectators. For example, the National Basketball Association set attendance records in each of the last two regular seasons, with the 2015-2016 total coming in at an impressive 21,972,129, according to official league numbers – more than the 2016 population of the state of New York.

Public safety becomes a paramount concern in this context. Fans want to feel secure enough to enjoy the event, while venue owners and operators want to ensure the best possible experience for everyone involved, from athletes and performers to fans and viewers at home. Video can help them achieve this goal in several distinct ways:

  • Security enhancements: Video is a valuable tool for assessing rapidly evolving situations, monitoring crowd congestion and discovering abandoned items (e.g., backpacks). It can also be saved and stored as evidence for later if need be.
  • Event integrity: Cameras can help to identify counterfeit tickets and inspect queues of fans entering the stadium or moving through the lines at concession stands or restrooms. This way, people are kept happy and evenly dispersed throughout the area.
  • Deterrence: The mere presence of video technology can be a powerful deterrent to vandalism and crime. It instills a sense of security and acts as a critical cog within a rapid-response machine to possible incidents.
  • Officiating: Compared to the three above, this is a minor but still welcome benefit. Innovations such as video review in basketball and goal line tech in soccer help remove some elements of human error that can cast a cloud over event outcomes.

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are set to use video in many of these ways. Brazil has already increased its video presence in the run-up to the games, seemingly as a security precaution. At the same time, FIBA – the governing body for international basketball – will be utilizing a "video refereeing system" in Olympics qualifying tournaments in Serbia and Italy. Video's role in competitive sports, whether within national leagues or at international competitions, is poised to grow in the years ahead.

Case study: video systems near sports stadiums in Cincinnati

When it comes to public safety, video solutions have already proven their immense value in locations such as Cincinnati. Starting in 2008, the Cincinnati police department set up numerous cameras around Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium along the Ohio River. It also eventually implemented Firetide MIMO (multi-input, multi-output) technology to improve bandwidth and support more camera equipment around the University of Cincinnati.

The Firetide system has given the police enormous insight into what is happening around the city. With the new high-resolution data, the department can take new steps to ensure the safety of fans and others at any type of event in the area. Video from around the city's 77 square miles can be relayed seamlessly to the central command for analysis.
"The technology has been rock-solid," explained Cincinnati police department IT specialist Barry Whitton. "The advantage of having the ability to pull it all back to one place, in real time, and then to redistribute to people who can use it has been a great plus."

With video, the challenge is always the handling and storing of large amounts of data. By using Firetide MIMO and 7000 series products, Cincinnati was able to create a sustainable path toward video use for sports events and other applications, ensuring greater public safety and confidence. Find out more at our website, and contact us with any questions.

Category: Public Safety