Referee-mounted camera used in German Bundesliga for first time

A camera was mounted to a referee during a German Bundesliga fixture for the first time on Sunday (25 February 2024), with the official in charge of the tie between Eintracht Frankfurt and VfL Wolfsburg equipped with a Riedel-developed camera and microphone.

Referee Daniel Schlager was fitted with the RefCam device to provide viewers with a close-up view of the referee’s perspective and to show the challenges faced by match officials.

The content captured by the camera and microphone will be used from 12 March in a monthly 30-minute programme ‘Referees Mic’d up – Bundesliga’. Produced by DFL Digital Sports, the programme will be made available to national and international media partners.

Referee Patrick Kessel with the head unit of Riedel’s RefCam

The initiative was authorised by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and required coordination between various stakeholders including the German Football Association (DFB), the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga, the participating clubs Eintracht Frankfurt and VfL Wolfsburg, and the referees.

Riedel programme manager global events Jan Schaffner explained to SVG Europe that the development of RefCam began in 2020 after the company was initially asked to assist referees in Germany with their training sessions.

“It’s a completely new development and an entirely Riedel-developed camera,” said Schaffner. “It is comprised of two components: a head unit which is mounted on the headset, along with comms system head unit connected to a transmission unit. There is a live version and a version with a recording unit, which is what was used at the weekend. And it’s possible to mute and shut down the microphone if needed.”

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Schaffner said RefCam was developed with referees Patrick Kessel and Nicholas Winter, with whom Riedel has formed a joint venture called In-YS (In Your Shoes).

“It’s really important to know what referees think, and how they use this kind of technology and to make sure that we are able to address any concerns that referees might have about how RefCam can be used,” said Schaffner.

Current IFAB regulations only allow for images from a referee-mounted camera to be recorded rather than transmitted live.

“We have used [the live version] in training so we know we can create beautiful broadcast images, but we must respect the IFAB regulations,” said Schaffner.

Following its use at the weekend, RefCam will be reviewed by Riedel with the Bundesliga to see if any changes are needed before it’s used again in the league.

Looking ahead, Schaffner explained that RefCam would be offered via Riedel’s Managed Technology division. Comprised of custom-engineered technologies paired with supervision and support by Riedel-qualified engineers, one of the first projects overseen by the division was the DFL’s work with Riedel to design a reliable infrastructure for German Bundesliga referee communications.

Referee Daniel Schlager tested RefCam on 17 December during the match between Arminia Bielefeld and TSV 1860 Munich in the 3rd division.

The use of a ref cam builds on some previous uses of mics in other European countries last season; in April last year, referee Emily Heaslip wore a mic during Chelsea’s match against Reading in the Women’s Super League. In the same month, Ligue 1 referee Benoit Millot was mic’d up for the fixture between Lyon and Nantes, with Amazon Prime sharing footage on social media.

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