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  • Anika Jain

Technology in football

Recently, football has seen the highest number of innovations. We all remember old broadcasts. Compare a match recording from the 1980s with the USA vs Wales, or Canada vs Croatia. Alphonso Davies' brilliant goal against Croatia would have looked much worse, if no progress in camera tech was made. 

Ever since World Cup 2018, match officials use the high quality footage to guide the main referee. The tech is called Video Assistant Referee (VAR). VAR is an advanced refereeing technology that is being used in football to assist match officials in making decisions more accurately. VAR utilizes a combination of video replays, audio communication and other technology to provide referees with a range of crucial information. Importantly, It has been widely adopted by many professional leagues and competitions around the world, including the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, Premier League and Major League Soccer. In 2018's Soccer Tournament, 455 incidents were checked, and main referees used video reviews 20 times. 

The introduction of VAR has had a significant impact on the game of football, as it has allowed referees to make more accurate decisions and ensure fair play for all participants. It has been credited for helping reduce errors in decision-making, leading to fairer outcomes for teams in decisive moments. 

Another innovation is the new match ball, and the new tracking system used in this year’s World Cup. Since the 2022 tournament a ball-tracking mechanism is being utilised. This ball includes both an ultra-wideband (UWB) sensor and an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor in order to collect data in real time.

Additionally, twelve Hawk-Eye cameras are installed around the stadium to track both the ball and each player 50 times per second. Twenty-nine separate points of the body are tracked for players, including limbs. This data is then sent to the central computer and analyzed by artificial intelligence software to generate automated offside alerts that can then be confirmed by video match officials. 

You would think that the introduction of this cutting-edge tech would have a large impact on the feel of the ball. You couldn’t be more wrong. The system inside the match ball weighs only 14 grams (just under 0.5 ounces). Moreover, there were tests with clubs from all over Europe to see if players could tell the difference between old-school, and cutting-edge ball. Turns out sportspersons couldn’t tell which one included sensors and which one did not. All the data gathered from the systems are then analyzed by the AI in real-time to generate reports. They then are analyzed and verified by match officials to see whether there was an offside or not. No more dubious goals, where assistant referees couldn’t tell whether the goal was scored correctly or not.

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