Video assistant referee (VAR) technology is to be trialled on one of the world’s oldest equestrian sports for the first time, as jousting becomes subject to the same scrutiny as football and tennis.
Charity English Heritage have teamed up with Hawk-Eye experts to trial the new system at Pendennis Castle in Cornwall today (31 July), followed by a series of jousts across England in August.
Two cameras positioned in the centre of the field will track the competitors’ moves and use video replay to provide an accurate score as they charge towards each other at speeds of up to 30mph.
The charity have said that accuracy was vital in “England’s first national sport”, which sees participants – who are weighed down by 20kg of steel armour and are on horseback – hitting their opponents with a 12ft lance to win points: five for a hit to the helmet, three for the shield and two for the torso.
Emily Sewell, English Heritage’s head of events, said that one of the misconceptions revolving around jousting was that the “intense clashes” were choreographed.
“It takes a great deal of precision and skill to aim the 12ft lance at a moving target and make the hit with the most points and it really matters to the knights – their honour is everything,” she said.
“But it also currently requires our Knight Marshall to accurately observe the location of each hit every time, which is quite a challenge.”
The VAR system is regularly used in football, tennis and cricket, among other sports, to enable officials to reach more accurate decisions. However, some people who play the sport are not happy about the medieval sport being brought into the 21st century.
“The scoring can be tight, but we like the old-fashioned rule that the referee’s decision is final,” said Jeremy Richardson, who has been jousting for 40 years and is the managing director of The Knights of Royal England.
“We don’t like this newfangled, modern approach because we are recreating something from the 14th century. You may as well get drones in to fly above the horse’s heads!
“This technology will just slow the game down too. We’re not looking to bring jousting up to modern times, we are hoping to bring what happened in medieval times to families and young children.”
Jousting was a popular element of European medieval tournaments between the 13th and 16th centuries, in which knights showcased their martial skills.
In 2016, English Heritage launched a campaign for it to be recognised as an Olympic sport.
In January 2018 VAR technology was used for the first time during a competitive football game – between Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace – to help determine the outcomes of key incidents.
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