"Living UEFA EURO 2016 with eyes closed"
As part of the UEFA EURO 2016 Respect Access for All project delivered by CAFE around the tournament, 30 French media and broadcasting students were trained in how to provide audio-descriptive commentary (ADC) for partially sighted and blind people.
The inclusive service was then made available at every match during the Finals to great acclaim. For more information about this project and our ADC partner, Aveugles de France, please click here.
In legacy of UEFA EURO 2016, the audio-descriptive commentators have the opportunity to use their newly-developed skills to continue to provide this inclusive service at football stadiums across France. In keeping with the aims of the UEFA EURO 2016 Respect Access for All project to create a lasting legacy, CAFE donated the technical equipment used during the Finals to the host venues. The ultimate aim of this project, as well as providing the service during UEFA EURO 2016, was to create a more accessible and inclusive matchday experience for partially sighted and blind fans for many years to come.
One of the media students who was trained to deliver the service, Julien Ronca, has blogged about his hugely positive experience at UEFA EURO 2016 and his passion to continue to provide the service in the future at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
My last experience brought me to the north of France, to commentate on the matches of UEFA EURO 2016 in a rather unique way. The commentary was audio-description, which enables blind and partially sighted fans to follow the matches live in stadiums.
A month of pure happiness. A month to live UEFA EURO 2016 daily, and to take part. It is beyond my expectations. The childhood dream had come true: I would commentate on football matches in France on the occasion of the largest European competition of the year, UEFA EURO 2016.
The childhood dream had come true: I would commentate on football matches in France on the occasion of the largest European competition of the year, UEFA EURO 2016.
Best of all, the experience is all the more beautiful as it is human: I will provide audio-descriptive commentary at these matches for blind and partially sighted fans in the stadiums. A superb initiative by UEFA and implemented by CAFE (Centre for Access to Football in Europe).
But what is audio-descriptive commentary? By and large, it is very similar to radio commentary. There are less gaps and missing information than on television, and a lot more information is provided. Listeners are blind and partially sighted, and you have to give a lot of technical details and specify what happens in the stadium, including in the stands and on the benches. And often when the game allows us, we can add some funny information, such as the original haircuts of the players, the mismatched pairs of boots worn by players and so on. The goal is to completely immerse the listeners in the match, so that they can respond directly to the action and enjoy the atmosphere alongside their fellow fans.
I had a beautiful programme of matches in Lens and Lille to commentate on, including matches featuring France, Belgium, Germany and England.
My first match was in Lens, at the beautiful Stade Bollaert-Delelis for Albania vs Switzerland. I was working with Youmni, a journalism student at ESJ Lille. Any nerves that I may have had were quick to disappear, replaced by a feeling of ease and pleasure that was even a surprise to me. A real advantage of audio-descriptive commentary is that we can let go, and it is important to enjoy it. We can have a bit of fun and add a bit of humour to the broadcast.
My second match was at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille. This time I worked with Augustin, another student from ESJ Lille. I felt our styles were very complementary, and we both took a great deal of pleasure out of working together. The match was Germany vs Ukraine and I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity. It wasn't the greatest game, but at least we had some goals to describe and that's the main thing.
The third match in Lens, working with Youmni again, was the biggest thrill of my life. I have never seen such an atmosphere, even in my home town of Marseille. The match was England vs Wales - a British derby. The match had twists and surprises, and the national anthems were so loud. Without doubt this was one of my greatest memories of the Finals, the English fans are incomparable.
My next match was in Lille. It wasn't the best match, but it gave me the opportunity to commentate on France in their game against Switzerland. Everybody seemed pretty happy with the 0-0 result except for us in the press tribune. Augustin shared my disappointment, and we were surprised by a lack of atmosphere from the French fans. And even though the stadium in Lille is bigger than in Lens, the atmosphere is not as great.
It was now time for the knockout rounds, and I was in Lens with Youmni to commentate on Croatia vs Portugal. The purge. There wasn't a shot on target for 117 minutes, and the match seemed very long, very very long. My disappointment in the match did not go unnoticed and some of our listeners, who we met at the stadium exit, even comforted me! The advantage of this style of commentary clearly is that it should create a lot of emotions, and we only received positive feedback on this point.
And what a match to finish. My final game was in Lille, commentating with Augustin at the quarter final between Belgium and Wales. A large group of disabled Bekgian supporters tuned in to the service, accompanied by one of our project trainers Jean-Marc. It was probably one of the best matches of the Finals, and I am both happy and proud to have provided audio-descriptive commentary at it. I had to yell so much for the Wales goals that I lost my voice, which our listeners later told us they found hilarious.
It was a great experience, during which I learned a lot and benefited enormously. There was more good news at the end of the competition: CAFE donated the audio-descriptive commentary equipment to the host venues to continue to provide ADC. And as good news never comes alone, I learned that I will also continue the adventure at home. It is with pleasure that I will take my headset and microphone to Marseille, to share the matches and atmosphere of the Velodrome with fans who have never had the opportunity. Tune in to 107.9FM from August if you come see OM!
I must give a special mentio to Fédération des Aveugles et Handicapés visuels de France, the ASA association and of course CAFE and UEFA, and a big thank you to the UEFA volunteers, my trainers Charly Simo and Jean-Marc Streel, and Joanna Deagle at CAFE.
For more information about audio-descriptive commentary, please click here.
If you are interested in implementing audio-descriptive commentary at your club or venue, please do contact CAFE for more information by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, call +44 (0)20 8621 2405 or tweet @cafefootball.