As part of their bid to have jousting recognized as a competitive sport by the Olympic Committee, English Heritage successfully tested the use of video to help referee jousting tournaments.
Considered to be England’s first national sport, jousting remains popular to this day, both in the US at Renaissance Faires, but more so in the United Kingdom. But perhaps the most difficult part of the sport is judging where a combatant’s 12-foot lance hits an opponent.
Taking a hit from a knight charging down the field with a lance at up to 30 miles and hour takes just a split second. Due to the velocity, it is often difficult for the Knight Marshall, the person who tallies the points scored, to see if each jouster’s lance hits a shield, helmet, coronel (lance tip), the arm, or other part of the opponent’s body.
When English Heritage, the organization that runs many of the historic properties and castles around the UK, received thousands of signatures on their 2016 petition to add jousting to the Olympic sports lineup, they realized that the Olympic committee would be more likely to accept this 1,000-year-old sport if there was an accurate way to determine the points scored.
So in the summer of 2019, English Heritage hired a company to test a VAR (Video Assisted Referee) during the jousting tournaments held at their properties. This is the same video replay system used in other major sporting events, such as soccer, football, and tennis, in which the platform videotapes the action and then replays it, as needed, to the referees.
Although detractors say that the VAR will slow down the action and therefore diminish the fun of watching a jousting match, if English Heritage and its supporters have a shot at competing in jousting at the Olympic games, modern tech will undoubtedly be a necessary part of the scoring process.
To attend a jousting tourney in the UK, check out English Heritage's schedule at https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/whats-on/knights-jousts-events/