Riedel Bolero S provides referee communications for German Bundesliga

Schiedsrichter Soeren Storks, Munich, 

To address the emerging requirements of large-scale sports broadcasts, Riedel Communications has launched a Managed Sports Services division, comprising of custom-engineered technologies paired with extensive supervision and support from Riedel-qualified engineers. 

Among the first customers to benefit from the services is DFL (Deutsche Fußball Liga) which has partnered with Riedel to design a reliable infrastructure for German Bundesliga referee communications.

Using the Bolero wireless intercom system, introduced in 2017, Riedel is providing what it describes as a “reliable intercom platform with outstanding audio quality that is suited to sports broadcasts.”

The challenge for the Bundesliga was to deliver a solution that would provide crystal-clear communications between referees and their assistants on the sidelines, and with the Video-Assist-Center (VAC) located in Cologne. In addition, the belt pack itself had to be acceptable to the referees and suitable for live-game environments.

For this joint effort, DFL experts and Riedel’s team of engineers and product managers took on the task of designing a smaller version of the Bolero system that offered unlimited freedom of movement on the pitch while still preserving key characteristics such as multiple channels, high voice clarity, and unsurpassed RF reliability.

Early on, it was decided that voice-activated transmission (VOX) would offer the hands-free convenience to make the project successful. The result is a VOX-operated hands-free Bolero belt pack and lightweight headset combination that allows Bundesliga referees, assistants, and Video Assistant Referees (VAR) to communicate effortlessly via a real-time connection to Riedel’s brand-new Remote Operations Center (ROC) in Wuppertal.

A year of intense collaboration bore fruit just in time for the start of the 2018-2019 season when the Bolero S passed its trial run during the 2018 DFL-Supercup, exceeding all expectations with its compact size, light weight and simple operation.

As Riedel’s corporate business development manager, Jacqueline Voss, points out: “This was the result of great synergies between Riedel, DFL and the refereeing department of Deutscher Fußball-Bund. A stadium with 80,000 cheering fans, like Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, is a very demanding environment for clear communications. Experimenting with different headset configurations, microphone cartridges, and sound transducers in our lab alone would not have sufficed. Thanks to our fantastic 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.”

Riedel Managed Sports Services and Bolero S will provide referee communications for all 306 Bundesliga matches this season.

In each of the 18 Bundesliga stadiums, three Bolero antennas provide full coverage on and beside the pitch, inside the referee locker rooms, and in the players’ tunnels. Their signals converge into a Riedel Artist 32 intercom matrix which then connects to the VAC in Cologne and to the ROC in Wuppertal via WAN VoIP. In the ROC, engineers monitor every single system component and respond to changing circumstances on the pitch in real time.

By controlling parameters like gate, release time and limiter thresholds, every VOX-microphone can be individually calibrated for each referee and then fine-tuned to the conditions in the stadium in real time. With Riedel’s specialists overseeing the belt pack battery charge and system integrity, the referees can now fully concentrate on guiding and directing fair matches.

“With Riedel, we have found the ideal partner for referee communications. Having provided customized solutions for high-profile sports events such as premier motorsports or major soccer tournaments, Riedel Communications is unmatched in their experience,” said Ansgar Schwenken, DFL director of football affairs & supporters and member of the DFL e.V. Executive Committee. “Our collaboration with Riedel has resulted in the fantastic Bolero S and, with support from their Remote Operations Center, we now enjoy a carefree, full-service solution.”

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