Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Frampton instils fighting spirit as IFA add help for blind fans

Carl Frampton, Mayor of Lisburn William Leathem, David Bowen and Northern Ireland fan Luke Walsh launch SoccerSight alongside Grassroots officers Malcolm Roberts and Ken Duncan

Michael O'Neill will be hoping that Carl Frampton's success in the boxing ring can rub off on his players after he backed the Irish FA's SoccerSight initiative.

Frampton toppled some of the biggest names on the continent on his way to becoming European super bantamweight champion last month and O'Neill's team must do the same if they are to make a fist of challenging for a place in the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

That means getting something out of Friday night's Windsor Park clash with Russia and the IFA is helping blind and visually impaired supporters enjoy the international experience at Windsor Park as much as the rest of the 14,000 fans who will be at the game by providing a unique commentary.

Although the system has been in place for a few years, the new up-to-date digital equipment will allow more blind and visually impaired fans to access the audio descriptive commentary inside the stadium.

And the volunteer commentators will also benefit from the use of a monitor in case there is anything they miss during the live action.

"The IFA should be congratulated along with their dedicated coaches and staff for their huge efforts in breaking down some of the barriers faced by blind and partially sighted people in accessing sports," said Frampton at the launch in Lisburn.

Windsor Park is one of only a handful of stadiums across the UK that offers a special commentary for blind and visually impaired fans, alongside Wembley and Old Trafford.

And Northern Ireland internationals are currently the only sporting fixtures in the country that cater for those with visual impairments in such a way, although the Royal National Institute for the Blind are hoping that Ulster Rugby and the GAA will follow suit.

Former Irish FA General Secretary David Bowen, who is now the RNIB's co-ordinator for SoccerSight, said: "Soccer Sight is an excellent scheme which will enhance the enjoyment of blind and partially sighted people going to Northern Ireland internationals.

"It gives an all round better, fuller and more complete match going experience.

"Also it opens up the other aspects of going to the football fellow sighted fans appreciate as a matter of course."

IFA President Jim Shaw said: "The IFA is delighted to have been able to access funding to from DCAL to provide new digital equipment to enhance the quality of broadcast to all our visually impaired and blind supporters at Northern Ireland home games."

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