Audio-descriptive commentary to be offered at Russia 2018

  • ​Audio-descriptive commentary involves a detailed narration of events

  • Headphones freely available for fans at stadium information points

  • Service was proved at FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017

The aim of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ organisers is to ensure the tournament is accessible for all spectators. Audio-descriptive commentary involves a more detailed narration of events for people who cannot see the match or what is happening in the stadium. Headphones will be freely available for fans at stadium information points.

At the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, a course was held at the beginning of April on audio-descriptive commentary for blind and partially sighted football fans. The experienced commentators who attended the theoretical sessions will provide the service this summer at all Russia 2018 stadiums.

The Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC) provided this service at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017. “Four commentators worked all the tournament’s four venues in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan and Sochi,” said Head of Spectator and Competition Services Division at the LOC Dmitri Grigoriev.

“Over the 16 matches, 234 spectators made use of the service. It’s important to note that all the fans who listened to the audio-descriptive commentary sat with all other spectators in the stadium. In other words, blind and partially-sighted football spectators are not isolated and have the same experience as everyone else. During the FIFA World Cup, audio-descriptive commentary will be available in Russian at all 12 FIFA World Cup stadiums, and we are planning to offer 200 sets of equipment at every arena. At the Luzhniki Stadium and Saint Petersburg Stadium, the commentary will be in English as well as Russian.”

Attendees of the two-day course were shown the ropes by trainer Pavel Obiukh, who is himself partially sighted. They learned about the particularities of the profession, got to grips with the technology and studied the history and appropriate content of audio-descriptive commentary. The second day of the course was dedicated to the principles of this kind of football commentary and practical work. Obiukh explained how audio-descriptive commentary is a recent phenomenon in football, and the culture around it is still developing.

“Audio-descriptive commentary is based on the idea that the visual perception of someone who can’t see must be as close as possible to what a sighted person is viewing,” he revealed. “Over these two days, we learned how to objectively communicate the substance of football. Nowadays, radio commentary is more similar to television: the commentators fill pauses in the game with information that anyone can find on the internet, but a spectator who cannot see the game is interested in every single detail. The commentator’s aim here is to objectively state the facts and let the supporters draw the conclusions. Our course is very useful. Last year at the FIFA Confederations Cup, I listened the commentary and I was completely satisfied with his work.”

“Feedback is important for any journalist,” said Alexey Zolin, a journalist trained to be an audio descriptive commentator at one of the FIFA Confederations Cup stadiums in 2017, “and working at the Confederations Cup I was able to receive it. There were quite a lot of partially sighted fans at games and afterwards they were very grateful and gave me positive reviews about my work. I was proud that I managed to convey the image and atmosphere of a game to people who for a number of reasons can’t see this by themselves.”

“Audio-descriptive commentary is one of the important initiatives being offered to make the FIFA World Cup matches accessible to all. Over the past years, FIFA and the LOC have been working on various measures to ensure that infrastructure, ticketing and services are in place to cater to the needs of disabled people and contribute to an inclusive event.” said Federico Addiechi, FIFA Head of Sustainability & Diversity.

Audio-descriptive commentary is just one of the services that FIFA and the LOC are offering fans at World Cup stadiums. Accessible stadiums are a key feature of ensuring that the FIFA World Cup is inclusive for all. They allow disabled fans and fans with limited mobility to enjoy a barrier-free environment. This includes:

  • ​Infrastructure solutions (e.g. parking areas, resting areas, special entrances, routes, seating, toilets)

  • Services (e.g. ticketing, wheelchair lending services, live audio-descriptive commentary)

  • Disability awareness training of stadium volunteers by FIFA World Cup Sponsor McDonalds to provide adequate information and assistance to all spectators