Football’s relationship with technology has been a tumultuous one. Dare to utter the three letters V A R and you will likely evoke feelings of dismay and exasperation among football fans across Europe.
But is it fair to outright dismiss the further integration of technology into football just because technophobic referees like to use it as a scapegoat for their own decisional shortcomings?
I think it’s time football technology was discussed in a more positive light, so here are some ways that technology is having a positive impact on the sport, and what further developments we can expect to see soon.
Bringing some much-needed objectivity to offside decisions
Just in case I didn’t make this clear at the start…
Technology used in the decision-making process is not the issue, referees misusing it is.
So, it is comforting to know that trials are being carried out at several Premier League clubs on artificial intelligence (AI) technology designed to automate the detection of offsides.
This would work in a similar way to the Hawk-Eye goal line detection system, whereby the referee would be notified immediately of an infringement – allowing them to act quickly and without having to use their own (often questionable) judgement.
The trial has shown early signs of success and could potentially be rolled out by early next season across Europe’s top leagues.
A faster flowing game and less decision-making power for officials? Not sounding so bad now, is it?
GPS technology is helping to monitor players and reduce injuries
Fixture lists at the top level of the sport are now more congested than ever before.
For instance, last season Barcelona teenager Pedri broke the world record for number of games played in a single season, playing a combined 73 times for club and country across eight separate competitions.
But while more fixtures might mean more entertainment for football fans, forcing players to consistently push their bodies to perform at the highest-level can increase their chances of serious injury.
But technology has come to the rescue. Northern Ireland based STATsports have developed GPS tracking software that allows coaches to monitor player performance in game against 10 different metrics, which has been helping to recognise the signs of player burnout at 14 Premier League Clubs. The software diagnoses when a player is showing signs of fatigue, allowing coaches to intervene to reduce the risk of injury.
AI helping young players get their chance
The career of Leicester striker Jamie Vardy is often described as fairy tale story.
It is chronicled in this way because it seems almost impossible in the modern era that a medical splint manufacturer and part time footballer, could one day lift the Premier League trophy.
However, AI technology from AiSCOUT is helping to make this dream a reality for many more amateur players.
The tech exists in the form of an app, where players film themselves performing a combination of athletic and skills-based exercises. The app then uses its AI technology to analyse the performance of the players in each drill and provide them with an overall score.
The footage and scores can then be viewed by professional clubs, who are able to invite players to trial at their academies.
The app has already seen some success, helping 17-year-old non-league defender Ben Greenwood – who had never previously been scouted – secure a dream move to Championship side Bournemouth.
An exciting future for technology and football
From improving refereeing decisions to providing increased opportunities for young players, technology is helping to correct faults in the existing processes of the beautiful game.
Whether you like it or not, the future of football is distinctly technological – and that is something all fans should be excited about!