Riedel Tailors Bolero Comms for German Football League

Sport and sports broadcasting rely more than ever on technology today. Many audio and video manufacturers have developed products specifically for this area but Riedel Communications has taken this further by establishing a department dedicated to it. The Managed Sports Services division provides targeted, customised technology, with the German football league among the first organisations to partner with it.

The Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) is working with Riedel Managed Sports Services on the communications network that allows the referee at a stadium to consult colleagues running the VAR (video assistant referees) system. This is now used by many European football leagues to replay footage of incidents the officials on the pitch are either uncertain of or did not see properly.

The VAR team is based at the Video Assist Centre (VAC) in Cologne, which opened just before the start of the 2017-2018 DFL season. It is housed in a 100 square metre studio that is part of the Cologne Broadcasting Centre (CBC). Here, six video assistants, each supported by two technical operators, can review footage from the matches in progress. The operators are able to access camera feeds so they can provide the video assistant official with the relevant views to make a decision.

The technical brief to Riedel was to provide a clear and coherent communications link between the referees and their assistants on the sidelines at the games and the fourth (video) officials at the VAC. As well as having good audio quality, any unit had to be up to being part of a live match and be comfortable to wear.

Referee Bastian Dankert consults a video monitor and communicates over his Bolero S belt pack at the FC Bayern Munich-Hoffenheim match in August 2018.

Referee Bastian Dankert consults a video monitor and communicates over his Bolero S belt pack at the FC Bayern Munich-Hoffenheim match in August 2018.

Riedel's DECT-based wireless intercom, Bolero, was selected. Introduced in 2017, this was modified to produce the Bolero S, which has smaller belt packs but the same multiple channels, reliable RF connectivity and the same voice clarity as the larger original product. The voice activated transmission (VOX) feature is used to enable hands-free operation, with the officials wearing a lightweight headset.

All of the 18 Bundesliga stadia have been fitted with three Bolero antennas to cover key areas, including the pitch, referee locker rooms and player tunnels. Feeds from the antennas are received by Artist 32 matrix, which connects to both the VAC and Riedel's new Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in the western German city of Wuppertal. Engineers in the ROC monitor the various elements of the system and control features including gating, noise release and limiter thresholds. The VOX microphones can also be adjusted to suit individual referees.

These operations are jointly overseen by the DFL, the refereeing department of the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (German Football Association) and Riedel. "A stadium, like Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, with 80,000 cheering fans, is a very demanding environment for clear communications," comments Jacqueline Voss, corporate business development manager at Riedel. "Experimenting with different headset configurations, microphone cartridges and sound transducers in our lab alone would not have sufficed. Thanks to our partnership with DFL, we could conduct extensive field tests at official Bundesliga stadiums and we are more than happy with the result of this team effort."

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