Whether to aid players, teams, officials or supporters, technology has become a crucial part of the way we think about, and consume, sport.
All sports have embraced the advent of technology.
And with the introduction of concepts such as Video Assistant Referees in football, that relationship looks set to grow even further over the coming years.
Here, Coral puts technology under the microscope, examining its current and future relationship with sport and specifically the beautiful game.
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How technology is changing sport
Technology’s relationship with sport is one of positivity and improvement.
Innovations such as Hawk-Eye in tennis, Snicko and Hotspot in cricket and Goal Line Technology in football have served to improve accuracy of key decisions and ultimately drive up the quality of the sport.
These examples of technology clarify individual incidents that may affect the outcome of a match. But technology has and is still being utilised by clubs and organisations in order to gain an advantage over opponents.
Tracking technologies that provide information gives clubs exhaustive amounts of data to help them prepare on a game-by-game basis.
Current Everton manager Sam Allardyce was one of the first Premier League managers to embrace this new type of technology in the early 2000s. Now it is used throughout the league and around the world.
This type of technology also has significant health benefits. In NFL, smart helmets reduce the risk of brain injuries using sensors and magnet technology. Technology that monitors heart rate also has the ability to pick up any abnormalities where previously issues would have gone undetected.
Sport is all about marginal gains. The use of technology such as cryotherapy, as utilised by Leicester City in their Premier League title-winning campaign, could be the difference between success and failure.
Video Assistant Referees (VAR)
Video Assistant Referees are the newest and most controversial type of technology to be introduced into football. VAR, as it is better known, is used to clarify and reverse clear and obvious errors made by referees in four specific situations. These are:
- Goals scored
- Penalty decisions
- Red cards
- Cases of mistaken Identity
In practice this should only be a good thing. Yet debate rages over whether the time taken to make decisions impacts negatively upon the flow of a football match. England legend Alan Shearer has been one of a number of critics of the system.
It is still early days for VAR. The system was only first introduced in 2016 during a reserve match in MLS. Almost a year later in April 2017, Melbourne City’s match with Adelaide United was the first professional domestic fixture to use the system.
It was also used at the 2016 Confederations Cup and has also been adopted during the 2017-18 league season in Serie A and the Bundesliga. Although not currently used in the Premier League, VAR has been present at selected FA Cup ties. Kelechi Iheanacho’s goal for Leicester against Fleetwood Town was the first to be given in England with the aid of VAR.
On 3rd March 2018, the IFAB wrote Video Assistant Referees into the Laws of the Game. It is expected to be used during the 2018 World Cup in Russia and during the 2018-19 Premier League season.
Virtual Reality’s relationship with sport is still in its infancy. As the technology grows, so will its importance in the world of sport.
So far it is used primarily as a tool to enhance fan experience. In America, VR is already being used to live stream one Major League Baseball game every Tuesday. Meanwhile, thanks to Virtual Reality, NASCAR fans were able to transport themselves into the driver’s meeting at the NASCAR Cup Series Championship finale in November.
Virtual Reality gives spectators the chance to get closer to the action and experience the same pictures and feelings that their heroes experience on a weekly basis.
However, it is increasingly being used in training for sports teams.
F1 has embraced the technology to give drivers an extra edge when visualising the track. NFL, too, uses VR to train quarterbacks through additional repetitions. Virtual Reality provides an extra edge to competitors in sports where fine margins are key.
Goal Line Technology
Hawk-Eye was first used in cricket in 2001. Tennis followed suit in 2004. Yet it did not reach football until 2012.
Known as Goal Line technology, it was introduced in time for the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan. After successful trials, the system was also used in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It made its Premier League debut during the 2013-14 season.
Edin Dzeko’s strike for Manchester City against Cardiff City in January 2014 was the first English top-flight goal to be awarded by Goal Line technology.
But how exactly does it work? Well, a network of high-speed cameras placed inside the ground work to triangulate the ball’s position at any given time. Using this knowledge, the technology can work out whether or not the ball has crossed fully over the line and into the goal.
In a matter of milliseconds, the software sends a transmission to the referee’s watch alerting them as to whether the ball has crossed the line or not. No more contentious assistant refereeing decisions and no more arguing with the decision.
The decision is then displayed on screens around the ground and at home for the benefit of TV viewers. If only we had it for Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany in 2010-, eh? Can England finally break their World Cup hoodo? Back them on in the 2018 World Cup with Coral!
Drones have been around for over 100 years. But only recently have they found their way into sport.
From NFL to the Premier League, drones are now used as part of training in preparation for matchday. They offer a unique point of view from above the action and provide a 360-degree view to help teams both tactically and in a positional sense.
Everton was one of the first English clubs to adopt the use of drone technology in 2015 under Roberto Martinez. Manchester United are also believed to be making use of the newly available technology.
Eddie Jones, too, Head Coach of England’s Rugby Union side confirmed recently that he uses drones in preparation for big matches.
Managers can now analyse space, formation and tactical plans from overhead with a full view of the pitch. For younger players, who are more receptive to pictures and images than in-depth dossiers of information, drones provide a clearer way of displaying information.
Yet drone involvement is not always good. In January 2018, Yeovil Town’s League Two clash with Crawley Town was stopped for 11 minutes while an unmanned drone hovered over the stadium.
Sports Stadium Technology
In 1962, inventor Arthur Greenwood predicted what the stadium of the future would look like. He foresaw the referee sitting in a suspended box over the pitch and electronic rays to decide whether a ball had crossed the line or not.
One out of two isn’t bad.
Sports stadium technology has come a long way since the 1960s. Upgrades in technology are geared primarily towards the spectator comfort and experience. Most modern stadia are fitted with a giant TV screen for action replays. Indeed, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons will feature the world’s first 360-degree video wall.
In Turkey, Besiktas’ Vodafone Arena contains several ‘smart’ seats fit with mini TV screens built into the headrest. At some of the world’s top-level football clubs, spectators can also use specially designed apps to order food and read the afternoon’s matchday programme.
Sporting Park, the home of Sporting Kansas City, even allows fans to stream videos of on-pitch action in order to get the very best view from several different angles.
Technology also benefits the day-to-day running of football clubs. Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium will be able to accommodate two different surfaces – one for football and one for NFL. The pieces of turf will sit on retractable rollers and take 25 minutes to switch between the two.
There’s no limit to what new technology could be available to football stadiums in the future. Holographic projections and unique GoPro insights could be just around the corner.
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