Technology has become an unavoidable part of our everyday lives. As we integrate tech with our everyday routines, both at home and at work, the same thing is happening in the world of professional sports. It is understandable that, being the most popular sport around the world, football is probably the one most prone to hi-tech solutions, because the impact of even the smallest changes can be immense.
Hi-tech Equipment Design
While technology has been involved with football equipment design process for quite some time, it was not until 2010 that things started to kick off. The introduction of the controversial Jabulani ball brought way more troubles for players than any viable gameplay enhancements. However, it did serve as a great tech showcase. The ball was so smooth and almost perfectly round it was unpredictable, as players were all used to “imperfect“ balls of the earlier era. From Jabulani and Brazuca to Telstar 18, each World Cup brings an imperfect ball closer to perfection.
Football boots and shin guards, however, are a different story. Instead of radical changes, small improvements are introduced with each new model and testing is thorough. This has allowed players to execute some miraculous shots or rapidly change movement direction, even on snow, because of just the right amount of friction.
Shin guards have become so light and thin that the players don’t even notice them anymore. At the same time, they are harder than ever before, so the percentage of critical injuries is at an all-time minimum.
This technology, also known as the Goal Decision System, has been tested in various implementations for more than a decade, and rules permit it but don’t necessarily require it, since 2012.
The GLT is used to help a referee in making a decision if the ball has completely crossed the goal line, thus awarding a goal or not. If it does not provide a clear indication as to whether the ball has fully crossed the line, the original call stands. In fact, as it is only a supporting technology, the final decision is always up to the referee.
Although it seems simple enough to integrate and easy to use, it really is quite expensive. The GLT costs around 280,000 EUR per ground and only the richest teams in the game can easily afford it.
Video Assistant Referee
Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, is used in game-changing incident situations. These incidents include goal disputes, penalty decisions, direct red cards, and mistaken identity incidents.
The VAR helps the referee make a decision a three-step process. When an incident happens, the VAR makes a recommendation, or the referee decides himself that a decision or incident should be reviewed. The video footage is then reviewed by the VAR who then advises the referee via headset. Before taking the appropriate action, the referee can decide to review the video footage on the side of the field, or simply accept the information from the VAR.