Jousting gallops into the 21st century with cutting-edge VAR technology

The ancient sport of jousting being shaken up by the use of VAR technology to score competitions at English Heritage venues this summer

Jousting, England’s first national sport, is being brought into the 21st century as English Heritage introduces Video Assisted Referee, or VAR, sports technology to its jousts across the country this summer.

Today at Pendennis Castle in Cornwall English Heritage’s jousters are being subjected to the scrutiny of the same vision processing technology as used in tennis, football and rugby for the first time, as sports specialists Hawk-Eye track and use video replay to accurately score the competitors’ moves.

Jousting requires an extremely high level of strength, agility and skill as the athletes wear heavy armour and control a 12ft lance as well as a horse, as they charge towards each other at speed. Scoring depends on hits with the lance: different parts of your opponent’s shield and helmet are worth a graded number of points, which means accuracy is vital to the overall score. Today, these hits will be able to be properly verified for the first time, says English Heritage.


Credit: Sarah Farnsworth

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The charity is running a campaign for jousting to be recognised as an Olympic sport: in 2017, double Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton became English Heritage’s most high-profile jouster after the charity challenged her to try her hand.

Emily Sewell, English Heritage’s Head of Events, commented: ‘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 lance at a moving target, and 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 today 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.’