Technology has begun to take over. Gradually, it will completely take over. The below article is a combination effort by Sofa Sports News (SSN) and Tagpay to officially announce the start of what both companies hope to be a positive and fruitful partnership.
Artificial intelligence (or AI) is becoming ever present in our day-to-day lives, technology is being used to replace humans in jobs and whole industries are scrambling to adjust to our digital era.
From the voice recognition tech that is built into Apple iPhones called ‘Siri’ to ‘Otto’, Uber’s driverless trucks, technology is changing the way we live.
The sports industry, like many others, has seen the influence of technology change the game forever. Sports science has helped to bring sport into this digital age, changing the way we train, play and think about sport.
Let’s take a look at some of the different technologies that are helping to improve performance across the world’s most popular sports.
The Viper Pod
We’ve all seen images of professional footballers training in what look black like sports bras. Well, these black vests are called Viper pods and are developed by a company called STATSports.
This neat piece of technology is used by many of the top clubs including Manchester City, Arsenal and Barcelona. They help coaches track data such as distance covered and heart rate amongst other stats using a GPS tracking system, which can then be used to plan and adjust a players training to improve their performance.
This piece of tennis tech was developed by a start-up from Silicon Valley called TuringSense and has been created in partnership with Hall of Fame coach Nick Bollettieri.
The top of the range Pivot package comes with 14 sensors to monitor 360-degree motion and collect data on metrics such as footwork, body position, elbow bend and knee bend. All of the analysis can be watched back on the Pivot application.
So where are we at with technology and the decisions that govern a top tier football match?
Club World Cup
Video refereeing in football has long been a contentious topic as the sport has resisted change, but the recent Club World Cup (December 2016) has provided the most prominent case thus far in its favour. The semi-final between Atletico Nacional of Colombia and Kashima Antlers of Japan saw the referee give a penalty after consulting video replays of a Kashima free-kick being delivered into the Atletico box.
The referee consulted the videos displayed on screens housed in a small station by the side of the pitch . The need for review itself followed the video referee alerting the central match official, Viktor Kassai, to the coming-together that he had missed nearly a full minute earlier. The referee stopped play, consulted the replays, and gave the penalty; it is not clear how the match would have restarted if the referee had decided against awarding the spot-kick.
“This is the first-ever live trial with Video Assistant Referees at a FIFA competition, so this is something that is new for everyone – especially to see the referee run to the video replay area at the side of the field,” said Massimo Busacca, FIFA’s Head of Refereeing in response to the episode. “In the incident tonight, the communication between the referee and the video assistant referee was clear, the technology worked well, and ultimately the final decision was taken by the referee, which will always be the case since the VARs are only there to support.”
The Bundesliga is set to introduce video assistant referees (VAR) from next season onwards after being successfully tested during the first half of the current campaign. VAR will only be used for clear matters and for irregularities in the case of a goal decision, penalty box situations regarding penalty calls, red card offences unnoticed by the referee, and in cases of mistaken identity over a yellow or red card. All other decisions in a match will remain unaffected, whilst the referee will continue to have the final call. “Only clear wrong calls can be part of the video evidence,” Hellmut Krug, a former FIFA referee and project head VAR added.
Hawk-Eye, the system already employed and well embedded into Tennis and Cricket, has been in the Premier league for a few seasons now and has been a resounding success. It uses a network of high-speed video cameras to track a ball’s position at a given time via triangulation. Knowing the ball’s position, Hawk-Eye will decide whether the line has been crossed and the associated software makes aware the referee of the outcome via a radio transmission to the referee’s watch.
Hawk-Eye has a margin of error of just 3.6 mm, better than the 3 cm required by football’s governing body, FIFA. However it needs to be able to see at least a quarter of the ball to work, which so far, has not been stumbling block. Just look at this recent Premier League example and ask yourself how a human would ever have been to make the correct call? Especially, given the speed of the modern game.
The Manchester United boss is and has long been adamant that trophies cannot be won and lost by human error. Jose remarked that video technology would provide “protection” for match official. He told FIFA.com : “We all need it. Professionals can’t lose or win matches and titles because of a refusal of this evolution. Sponsors, owners and investors must feel that technology is there. Also, referees especially need and deserve protection. They need the technology to help them, protect them and to support them. Jose, and the rest of the Premier League seem to be hugely in favour of video technology helping referees, especially after the success of goal line technology on decisions.
TagPay is a management solution aimed at youth sport. The tech started out in the football industry but has already expanded to tennis and gyms.
This piece of tech combines a smart-wristband and an app that allows sports clubs to safeguard players through its e-registration tool and player profile database. TagPay also offers payment protection for clubs by tracking payments using a traffic light system to show if payments are up to date, due or if a payment has failed. The app also allows a club to communicate key information with its customers through the newsfeed feature.
Off the pitch
The use of technology in sport does not just stop on the pitch. Fan engagement applications are now a massive part of the sporting culture with brands such as Uber, Waze and EE all doing their best to increase fan experience and engagement in stadiums for sporting events.
Taxi firm Uber and their partners Manchester United have confirmed that they will be offering ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage from Old Trafford on match days for fans in over 30 different countries.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Manchester United to not only make match day transportation more seamless but to deliver fans incredible experiences throughout the season, no matter where they are supporting from,” Amy Friedlander Hoffman, Head of Business Development and Experiential Marketing at Uber, said in a statement.
Digital communications company EE have also gone down the fan engagement route through their app and partnership with England’s Wembley stadium. The EE app allows fans to buy tickets and see the view from their seat before the game.
There is no doubt that this merger between sport and technology is just the start and the two will continue to overlap. This can only be seen as a positive because in recent years it has always been video games vs sport, sitting at home playing FIFA rather than outside playing football. Now it seems that technology is helping to bring the two together, whilst helping to improve sporting performance, administration and the overall experience of sport.