Whilst on Work experience (Year 11) Luca Alfieri from Bishop’s Stortford College, explored the technological advancements in football over several years, and how this technology improves the quality of football and fan perspectives on the game.
Football may be the largest sport on a global scale, however how technologically advanced is the beautiful game? To say the technology in football can rival that of other competitors such as Cricket is untrue. However, the technology of the sport has advanced significantly. Football has made considerable progress in technology especially in the aims of injury prevention; performance enhancing progression; and the controversial advancements into officiating decisions in the form of Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
VAR is a supporting technology tool for officials in football to make tough controversial decisions an easier task. To use the 2022 World cup in Qatar as an example, the VAR team had access to 42 cameras around the pitch, 4 of which have access to ultra-slow motion; this allows the VAR team to access footage up to 1000 frames per second allowing for a clear and uninterrupted slow-motion image of a potentially game changing decision. These decisions are then transferred from the VAR team to the on-field referee via a sophisticated fibre-linked radio system, then allowing the referee to express their decision in front of the players and fans.
VAR is a new component of the game and clearly displays how technology in football is still advancing, but does this clear technological advancement add to the game that so many people love? To answer this already complicated question, we must look at 2 aspects, the improvement to the accuracy of the on-field decisions, but also the fans perspective to the mechanism.
In the 2018/19 premier league season in which VAR was first introduced, it checked 2,400 incidents and overturned 109 decisions, averaging one overturned decision every 3.5 matches. This evidence clearly shows that VAR does have an impact on the referee’s decisions and potentially game-changing decisions, but how accurate are these overturned decisions? In its first season VAR got 94% of its decisions correct, however in the following season this percentage dropped to 82%. Getting 18% of overturned decisions wrong is a large percentile, paired with the prolonged periods of time in which officials spend making their decisions which ultimately makes the game very disjointed and makes it harder for players to play flowing football.
Moreover, the fans’ perception of the technology is no better, with only 26% of football fans supporting the use of VAR in football, with some even saying that ‘VAR brings a loss a spontaneity which makes football the way it is, celebrating a goal will never be the same, as we always have that feeling that the goal may be ruled out’. Fans argue that the game needs the aspect of human error otherwise big game moments cannot exist.
Performance enhancing technology
Despite the controversy VAR creates, there are many positives that advancements in modern technology bring to the game. An example of this being the player performance tracking technology which has been introduced into football to progress the overall quality of game play, helping players progress and improve. Wearable devices such as GPS trackers and accelerometers are used to monitor player’s physical metric’s during training sessions and matches. This data includes distance covered, speed, acceleration and work rate, all attributes which can be monitored and improved upon according to the players strengths and weaknesses. This technology is an obvious improvement to the game, allowing players to thrive in an increasingly physical sport.
Furthermore, this performance enhancing technology continues to improve football not only from the aspect of the individual but also from the aspect of the team. Using tactical analysis systems which include optical tracking cameras and GPS-based systems to capture data on player position, movements, and player interactions during the game. This data is used for tactical analysis providing managers and coaches with tactical insights into the game which allow for the coaching team to make improvements on the team’s performance creating a more engaging experience for the audience.
The first ever English First division football was made from leather and had an inner surface of pig’s bladder embedded beneath the leather outside. However, the ball was technologically unadvanced and had a tendency to absorb water causing the ball to become very heavy, not only making the ball harder to kick and less bouncy, but also leading to several concussion-based injuries when players attempted to head the ball.
The current premier league ball has progressed significantly since then. Nike released the Hi-Vis flight ball which is made from synthetic leather, polyester and cotton moulded into 32 panels, dissimilar to the 8 panels on the first division ball. The most current premier league ball is advertised to have Nike Aerosculpt technology which contains the ball having moulded grooves and a grippy texture which reduce unexpected movement through the air solving a problem which faced footballs in the past such as the 2010 Jabulani world cup ball. Although these technological advancements may seem small, the difference between the first ever first division football and the most modern ball is significant.
Football was thought of as a sport with very minimal technology, however, there has been a significant progression of the technology in the game. However, the fans are not convinced because it spoils the simplicity of what was seen as a perfect game. Although, football is clearly progressing forward from a technological perspective, so are it’s sporting competitors’ cricket, rugby and tennis. Football fans seem to be clutching onto the past and rejecting the positives that technology can bring, however in my view technology is the future and to neglect progression may end with football left behind its competitors.
Bishop's Stortford College