Fans with deafness or hearing loss were able to ‘feel’ the atmosphere as Newcastle battered Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 at St James’ Park this weekend.

Toon’s shirt sponsor Sela provided haptic shirts which transformed the noise of the stadium into real-time touch sensation for fans and matchday mascots attending the vital Premier League win.

Deaf fans David Wilson and Ryan Gregson were among those to experience the haptic shirts for the first time today. “What a game, what a day, what a shirt!” Wilson said at the full-time whistle. 

“I felt part of the singing, part of the stadium. The vibrations just continued through the full game. We felt involved in all the goals and all the singing, so I just want to say thank you.”

Gregson added: “That’s the best top ever! We felt the music, the singing; everything was included in the top; it was brilliant. At 4-0, the vibrations were amazing. I’m so happy, I would like to wear it every game.”

Sela, a live events and experiences company, has committed to providing the technology at all future Newcastle home games.

Newcastle United supporters’ group Wor Flags commemorated the initiative with a flag filling the Gallowgate end emblazoned with the words of Sir Bobby Robson: “It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging.”

Newcastle United players also wore a one-off matchday shirt today emblazoned with the logo of RNID, the national charity supporting the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus. Sela donated its sponsorship and pitch-side advertising rights to the charity.

Newcastle United's Sela deafness initiative

Supporting Sela’s initiative, a recent survey conducted by RNID of its members who are deaf or have hearing loss found that 71% of those surveyed believe new technology could improve the matchday experience and make live sports events and stadia more accessible.

Sela hopes its actions will inspire football clubs across the Premier League, Europe and beyond to build on efforts to improve accessibility.

Ibrahim Mohtaseb, senior vice president of Sela, said: “As a live experiences and events company, championing technology which provides spectacular experiences for all fans is a cornerstone to what we endeavour to achieve as Newcastle United’s principle partner.

“We’re therefore thrilled to have driven today’s initiative with the club and RNID to ensure the atmosphere of St. James’ Park can be truly felt by those who are deaf and have hearing loss.

“We hope today inspires clubs across the Premier League, Europe and beyond to adopt such technologies to deliver unforgettable experiences for fans in the Deaf community.”

Teri Devine, director for inclusion at RNID, said: “It was fantastic to be part of the atmosphere at St James’ Park, to see deaf fans experiencing the game through the haptic shirts, BSL being used on the pitch and of course the players wearing the RNID logo.

“We’re thrilled to have played a part in this initiative with Sela and Newcastle United and we hope it raises awareness so that deaf people and people with hearing loss can be fully included in football and all sporting events.”

Peter Silverstone, chief commercial officer at Newcastle United, said: “Today marks a huge day for inclusion in football. Through the haptic shirts, Sela has granted deaf fans and those with hearing loss the opportunity to experience the matchday atmosphere for which St. James’ Park is so renowned.

“Newcastle United is proud that our ever-increasing global exposure and followership has provided Sela the platform to amplify this great initiative.  

“Coupled with the sponsorship donation to RNID, the initiative showcases how football sponsorship can be a catalyst for greater accessibility and inclusion in the game and is demonstrative of Newcastle United and Sela’s joint commitment to ensuring all our fans feel they belong at St James’ Park.”