A-League invests A$150,000 in controversial Hawkeye technology

After being one of the first leagues in world football to adopt the VAR system, the A-League has now invested A$150,000 in the Hawkeye technology being used in the English Premier League.

In Australia, the two most recent top flight domestic grand finals have featured VAR errors. Both clearly impacted the contest. Its interference has also continued to heighten the mood of distrust around the system and bred calls for a simplification of its processes or its removal all together.

The Premier League has been using the new technology this season, much to the chagrin of many fans and expert commentators alike. Aside from decisions on foul play, it also uses a computerised 3D line, determining offsides based not only on centimetres and metres, but also on the tiniest of margins.

At times the width of a players arm can be the difference between a play on decision or an infringement being called. Such has been the case in the richest league in the world this season, with a host of decisions made after a referral to the VAR that have infuriated fans and drawn criticism from some of the most respected pundits.

Despite Australian football’s constant financial challenges, the A-League powers at be have chosen to invest in the system. It hopes to avoid the errors that have plagued recent grand finals.

In 2017/18, Melbourne Victory were awarded a match winning goal in the first half against the Newcastle Jets. There was a clear offside in the play yet a faulty monitor and a required reboot saw the officials in the booth unable to view the vision that would have made things right for the unlucky Jets.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Newcastle, yet luckily the error that occurred in the following seasons’ grand final was less disastrous. Sydney FC had a goal disallowed unfairly, however, after 120 minutes of grinding and stubborn action, did manage to prevail over Perth Glory on penalties.

Whilst the official word coming from the league will be that the investment they have made in the Hawkeye technology will remove such errors and ensure that we do not see a repeat of the embarrassing disasters of the past two seasons, many fans in England would disagree.

After just a month of the Premier League season, former whistle blower Mike Riley and Head of Referees, admitted that VAR had already been responsible for four major errors. Whilst three involved penalty decisions, he also made it clear that Newcastle United had been awarded a goal despite the technology confirming an offside player.

Liverpool’s Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah summed up much of the existing fan sentiment around the obviously flawed technology and the unrealistic ambitions of administrators to eliminate all errors from officialdom.

“I don’t like it … that’s my answer, always. I don’t like it,” Salah claimed in an interview with CNN. “I love football how it is.

Whilst English fans are grappling with VAR’s application to penalties, foul play and the new interpretations around handball incidents, Australian fans are already well versed in the frustrations caused in those areas.

The considerable financial investment made by Australia’s domestic governing body will now add the most finicky level of analysis to offside decisions. A three dimensional dotted red line joining an attacker’s shoulder with his exact position on the pitch is compared with a blue line indicating the precise placement of the defender.

Those two points then become extended lines draw horizontally across the pitch and the player in the highest or most advanced position is judged to be the last man; potentially on offside attacker or a defender playing a goal scorer onside.

The graphics look somewhat absurdly imprecise when used and many decisions appear within a reasonable margin of effort. One that should exist in all predictive technology.

However, Australian football claims to have invested in the future, in order to protect fans and the integrity of the game by ensuring there is a categorical decision made each and every time on the technological evidence available.

It is considerable money spent on something that remains unconvincing. Many would argue that they were happy with the game the way it was, well before we had even heard of the acronym VAR.

How A-League clubs can tackle waste management

It’s been widely publicised about how waste is going into landfill as we look at ways to protect our environment.

As a community, soccer clubs around the country have the ability to start making changes that will help the environment become better. What can we learn from overseas?

When you think about it, we go through a lot of waste at soccer games. Plastic cups, cans, food wrappers, bottles and more. Whether it be at the professional or local level, clubs are always dealt the task of cleaning up after matches.

Despite the recycling crisis remaining a problem across Australia, there hasn’t ever really been a system in place about ways to manage the rubbish from matches. Some clubs opt for both recycling and rubbish bins, but sometimes there are only the main general waste bins available.

We can only hope that the recycling crisis eases soon, but what can clubs and ground staff do now to prepare for a more sustainable future?

It needs to be put on the table because recently in Victoria there’s been a speculative idea to solve the current recycling issues – that is to have up to six different bins to seperate kerbside waste.

That’s a lot of sorting out to do if it comes to fruition and if it does happen clubs should start thinking about what measures they can put in place now.

While rubbish sent to landfill is inevitable, are there any lessons to be learned from overseas about how clubs and supporters can help restrict the amount of rubbish?

It comes as a report revealed that over 6 million single use cups for hot drinks were used by fans at Premier League matches throughout the course of the 2018/19 season, demonstrating that it’s not only here that waste could be reduced.

It gives a glimpse into how much waste there is, and why it’s important to address it before it’s too late.

Some changes have already been implemented in English clubs, with some trials being put to the test as they look for creative ways to limit the rubbish sent to landfill.

In a fixture at London Stadium, West Ham trialled a system where they used reusable cups along with 100 well signed collection points, which enabled them to save over 20,000 cups being sent to landfill.

Perhaps even more creative, at Twickenham Stadium they have introduced a deposit return scheme that has been a great success. The refundable deposit comes with a fan’s first drink, and basically they can either return for another drink or leave the ground with a souvenir.

As a starting point, it’s worth investigating how to be more sustainable by relying less on plastics. It comes as single-use plastics are slowly being phased out as a way to limit its damage to the environment.

This is where clubs can begin to become more creative with their resources. Instead of the general plastic that has no use afterwards, people should start thinking twice before chucking something out. Over time if clubs think with this mindset, it would make for some positive changes.

Waste management can be something that can be overlooked by local clubs, but getting fans onside and thinking about how to be more sustainable is a good move forward.

World first streaming service announced for women’s football

Swedish sports rights agency Spring Media has teamed up with UK-based Red Bee Media to launch the world’s first global over-the-top (OTT) streaming service for women’s football.

The service will be called ‘Wnited’, with plans to launch the platform in the first quarter of 2020.

At this stage no rights deals have been formally announced, however two top tier leagues have signed up with the service. Other leagues across Europe, Asia and the Americas are likely to be confirmed before the service is launched. National team matches are also scheduled to be on the platform.

Could this include our W-League and Matildas? Time will tell.

Consumers will have the option to either sign up to the service for free but endure advertising, or pay a subscription fee to go ad-free.

Over 300 live games will be shown on the platform, as well as a variety of on demand content including documentaries and highlights.

Chief executive of Spring Media, Tobias Osmund claimed: “Women’s football has reached a turning point when it comes to both viewership and media interest and we believe we’re just at the beginning of a steep growth curve.

“We are now launching a streaming service with access to some of the world’s best women’s football content and with the Red Bee OTT platform we are sure to deliver the highest quality viewing experience to football fans as they visit the new home of women’s football.”

Chief executive of Red Bee, Steve Nylund added: “This is a perfect example of how our managed OTT services can and should be used, reaching global audiences with high quality ultra-low latency live feeds and on-demand content, creating the best possible viewing experiences on any device.”

The news comes days after FIFA announced that this year’s Women’s World Cup was viewed by a record 1.12 billion people across various platforms.

PFA reveals factors behind the success of Australia’s golden generation Socceroos

Australia’s golden generation featured a host of players who made a name for themselves and created football memories that will last forever.

But what were the factors that made them so successful? As part of a recent study, 17 golden generation players were interviewed to discover more about their pathways, experiences and personal journeys.

The study, called “Culture Amplifies Talent”, was undertaken by Professional Footballers Australia, with research conducted by members of Victoria University.

The main aim of the study was to uncover and confirm the contributing factors to the golden generation’s success.

As part of the interviews, ex-players spoke about their journey through youth structures and were asked to reflect on what young players of today should be doing in order to maximise their potential.

There is certainly plenty to learn from the findings.

Victoria University researchers deemed that the main factors for the golden generation’s success were passion, family, mentality, environment, practice and pathways.

The study found that golden generation players stayed at their junior club for an extended period of time before moving into the senior ranks. That move was usually made within the same club, with family adding an extra layer of support and connection.

That translated to players spending more time at clubs in unstructured soccer activities with teammates and friends, quite different to current junior players whose organised training is far more structured.

The longevity within and connectivity to junior roots played a key role in the success of the players we now label as the golden generation.

The study provides valuable insight and creates an interesting discussion as to the correct approach clubs should take when it comes to junior players.

All findings uncovered by Victoria University will be shared with clubs, federations and other stakeholders; providing much food for thought for those involved in junior development..

Originally published as: New research reveals characteristics of golden generation success

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