Jousting joins football, tennis and cricket in V.A.R revolution

English Heritage trials Video Assisted Referee (VAR) at medieval sport through collaboration with Hawk-Eye, the leading innovator in sports technology

VAR referee alongside jousters

English Heritage has teamed up with Hawk-Eye to bring jousting adjudication in-line with 21st century standards.

At Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, English Heritage’s jousters will for the first time be subject to the scrutiny of the same sophisticated vision processing technology used in tennis, football and rugby. Hawk-Eye will track and use video replay to accurately score the competitors’ moves. 

As England's oldest national sport, jousting requires participants to ride on horseback under 20kg of steel armour and to charge with a 12ft lance at speeds of up to 30mph.

But until now the fast-paced sport has not kept up with the fast-paced technological advances, which would enable a more accurate scoring system.

VAR in action

In jousting, each hit with the lance to different parts of the shield or helmet is worth a different number of points, so accuracy is vital to the jousters’ overall scores.

Now, with VAR in play, these hits will be able to be accurately verified for the first time.

Emily Sewell, English Heritage’s Head of Events, said:

'One of the misconceptions surrounding jousting is that the intense clashes visitors see are highly choreographed, but in reality this is just not the case.

'It takes a great deal of precision and skill to aim the 12ft lance at a moving target and make the hit with the most points and it really matters to the knights – their honour is everything. But it also currently requires our Knight Marshall to accurately observe the location of each hit every time, which is quite a challenge.

'Now, for the first time ever, our jousters will be able to call on Hawk-Eye’s specialist VAR technology during the joust to verify their points. This is our first trial of this sometimes controversial technology and we’ll be interested to hear what our visitors – and jousters – make of it. It could revolutionise the ancient sport as we know it.'

Felix Coates, Hawk-Eye’s Advanced Football System Lead, said: 

'With experience in officiating over 20 sports across the world, it’s brilliant for Hawk-Eye Innovations to be able to add the sport of kings to its portfolio.

'Jousting is a really fast-paced event (it definitely makes a change from cricket!) with a complex scoring system, and being able to track and watch the jousters in slow motion using our VAR systems will show the precision and athleticism needed to take part. We’re really excited to be collaborating with English Heritage to bring this ancient and challenging sport into the 21st century.'

The Legendary Jousts – part of English Heritage’s Myths and Legends summer season – will be hosted at the following locations:

Scores and Rules of Jousting

  • Coronel to coronel (tip to tip): 6 points
  • Helmet: 5 points 
  • Shield: 3 points
  • For other part of the upper body: 2 points
  • For the left arm: 1 point
  • If a lance strikes but does not break it is recognised but not scored.
  • Illegal blows or barricades are not scored and warning can be given for poor lance control.

Find a jousting event near you at our Legendary Summer Events.

Discover more about the science of jousting on our blog.

Read Victoria Pendleton's blog about her day as a jousting knight.

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