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Friday's launch of New Zealand Blind Football in Auckland was the first event of its kind internationally to use inflatable advertising hoardings and goals.
These rigid inflatable products, Packasign and Packagoal, are produced by New Zealand sporting products supplier Packaworld as safe, portable alternatives to conventional goals and advertising hoardings composed from wood and steel.
Blind football is played in an enclosed arena, with a ball that emits an audible noise so blindfolded low-vision footballers can locate it.
Blind Sport National Manager Dan Shepherd saw the advantages Packasign could provide for blind football and the low-vision sporting community early on – and not just on the sporting field.
“To begin with, we approached an advertising company. They quoted us a 2.4 metre plywood and steel sign for the surrounds, so when it comes to storage and freight, Packaworld is already saving Blind Sport a lot of money,” Mr Shepherd said.
“The other beauty of the Packasigns is that they have other uses aside from court surrounds. We can also use them as normal signs, and re-skin them for advertising space.”
Because of the inflatable nature of the Packasigns, the risk of injury from players colliding with the field surrounds is minimal. They are composed from heavy-duty thermoplastic and skinned with a printed fabric outer layer, providing an advertising surface on two sides.
Packaworld CEO Peter Roberts said he was delighted to work with Blind Sport New Zealand to find the safest solution that enabled people to play blind football.
He said this equipment had put Blind Football New Zealand ahead of the game, as sports stadiums and recreation centres around New Zealand looked for safer advertising hoardings following the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
“We’re delighted we were able to provide a solution for Blind Sport New Zealand and support Blind Football. Hopefully their bright idea catches on around the world,” Mr Roberts said. “In high-level sport, collisions with advertising hoardings are all too common. But they don’t have to result in injuries.”
The launch event was presided over by Ulrich Pfisterer, former coach of the German Blind Football team and Chair of the International Blind Sports Federation Football Committee, who provided a technical training session for the New Zealand players and supporters.
Mr Pfisterer said he was “extremely interested” in the inflatable technology, which would solve a problem with promoting blind football in the more remote parts of the globe.
Friday’s event was held at St Kentigern Boys’ School in the suburb of Remuera with a public open day on Saturday.
To find out more about Blind Football see below