The medieval chivalric sport of Jousting, believed to be England’s first national sport, is set to get an upgrade this summer with Video Assisted Referee (VAR) technology.
Jousting sees two horsemen, clad in armour, gallop toward each other at speeds of up to 30mph with the goal of unseating their opponent with a 12ft lance.
Points are allocated for hits to different parts of the body – including five for a hit to the helmet, three for the shield and two for the torso.
English Heritage, a charity that manages over 400 historic monuments, buildings and places has teamed up with VAR specialist Hawk-Eye.
The technology is to be trialled this year in a jousting tournament in Cornwall at Pendennis Castle. At the two tournaments in August two cameras will be positioned in the centre of the field to track and record the competitors’ moves. This footage will then be used to replay the match to provide an accurate score.
The purpose of the trial is to see if it can help improve the accuracy in the point allocation system to ensure a fair outcome from each joust. The technology is already used in sports such as cricket, football and tennis to help officials judging the matches.
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Emily Sewell, English Heritage’s head of events, said: “Authenticity is at the heart of every English Heritage event, none more so than in jousting where we are proud to host the best talent from all around the world.
“There are of course modern additions, the public address systems for example, but for our knights jousting is an extremely serious business and the stakes are high.
“Ascertaining a just and fair result is paramount, as it would have been in the middle ages, and we are simply looking at how the very latest modern sporting technology might add to the experience.”
Despite the charity’s excitement, there are those within the jousting community unhappy with the use of VAR. Jousting veteran and managing director of The Knight of Royal England, Jeremy Richardson, said: “The scoring can be tight, but we like the old-fashioned rule that the referee’s decision is final,” he told The Telegraph.
“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 horses 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 fell out of fashion in the early 17th century and was replaced by horse-ballet, however, the sport experienced a revival in the 1970s with the arrival of jousting re-enactors.
Jousting exhibitions are common features in Renaissance fairs and other historical markets. The World Championship Jousting Association was founded in 1999 and its popularity has grown so much in recent years that in 2016 English Heritage has launched a campaign to have it become an Olympic sport.