Dutch clubs to deploy 'smart technology' to fight fan racism

Dutch clubs to deploy ‘smart technology’ to fight fan racism

Three top Dutch football clubs are taking part in pilot projects using smart technology including artificial intelligence to identify and fight racist behavior by fans, the country’s football federation announced Wednesday.

Eindhoven-based PSV, Feyenoord in Rotterdam, and PEC Zwolle have started three different programs designed to combat anti-social behavior by fans including racist chants.

“These solutions are now being developed and tested in the three stadiums and perhaps a fourth project will start later in the year,” the Royal Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) said.

“After one year, it should become clear whether, and how, these smart technologies have helped to identify racism and discrimination and to identify those responsible,” it said in a statement.

The methods at the three stadiums will vary.

At PSV, which is closely liked with Dutch technology giant Philips, cameras and sound equipment are to be used to measure fan engagement at matches “with feedback directly to the fans to motivate them and sing along.”

Computer programs using artificial intelligence will be able to pick up objectionable shouts and alert human officials who can watch a replay, the KNVB said.

At Zwolle, in the country’s east, visitors will go to games with their tickets on their phones, accessible via a mobile app, which, among other things, will be able to give supporters real-time information about safety conditions around the stadium.

“Further technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning will also be employed to enhance… social safety at the stadium,” the KNVB said.

The Netherlands has for years been battling racism from fan groups, particularly in chants and on social media.

A study of some 118 professional footballers, many playing in the top-tier Eredivisie, found that 40 per cent had experienced racism and other forms of discrimination, the Algemeen Dagblad tabloid newspaper reported last year.

One of the worst examples was when former Swansea central Leroy Fer posted a selfie with other black players in the Dutch national squad in 2015, prompting a slew of derogatory comments.

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