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.

Stuart Thomas is a trusted Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on macro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions.

ADI a driving force in LED production

LED screens featuring team banners or advertising have been common in stadiums for several years, becoming a staple for professional teams and leagues.  

New technology has grown in leaps and bounds – over a decade ago we were introduced to live matches in HD and have seen increased coverage overall. 

The idea of featuring LED technology in stadiums is something we’ve become accustomed to, as a new level of interaction and engagement has been achieved for the audiences of clubs and venues. 

ADI has been a provider of stadium screen and digital displays for clubs across the UK, venturing to the fourth tier of English football, League Two. As innovations become bigger and powerful, more professional clubs will be keen to find out what that could mean for them. 

As a company, ADI want to be flexible in what they can offer clubs and organisations. 

“Club’s mindsets are changing. It’s no longer a question of whether they can afford LED technology – it’s about thinking how it can be used to drive revenue,” ADI CEO Geraint Williams said. 

“We’re in an age where fans and brands demand more. Fans want a better experience and brands want better value. 

“Failure to deliver is a huge risk for future growth. There are others in the market who simply install a screen or perimeter LED display and walk away without helping clubs understand how to maximise its value. 

“We’re not that kind of supplier. We very much see ourselves as an extension to a club’s commercial team. Increasingly, we’re working with clubs of all sizes to create new models that increase partner revenue over a long-term basis.” 

ADI offers innovation in stadium hardware and as a content producer, to provide clubs with a valuable revenue generation pathway. 

“Revenue Based Design is a term borrowed from the architecture industry. It’s about engineering something in such a way that maximises the revenue derived from it,” Williams said. 

“In architecture, the theory is applied to buildings and spaces, but the same principle works in designing commercial stadium platforms.  

“Our technical and creative teams work hand in hand to create high impact digital platforms that add value to the matchday experience, whilst maximising the revenue potential of the investment. 

ADI have worked hard over the years to be the frontier of LED technology and a major player for clubs trying to find some extra revenue. They’ve been ever-present for teams in the English football pyramid, including Middlesbrough who currently play in the EFL Championship. 

“ADI completely changed the way we thought about the commercialisation of LED technology,” Middlesbrough Chief Operating Officer Mark Ellis said. 

“We invested in a new perimeter LED system over three years ago. As a Championship club we had to completely rethink the model in order to make it commercially viable. 

“ADI helped us to do that – designing a model that delivered incredible results – a 47% increase in partnership revenue and a 16% profit rise. 

“It’s been so successful we’ve since extended the digital stadium platform with ADI’s help.” 

ADI have not just limited themselves to the UK, but they’ve notably contributed for Germany’s top-flight Bundesliga with virtual advertising hardware.  

A ‘Virtual Hybrid’ can deliver different brand adverts into relevant viewing territories by virtually changing the LED content on screen. This means that clubs and venues have more control over what they want their audiences to engage with. Lagardere Sports, German football’s biggest media rights holder, have deployed this for a few seasons and are able to revolutise the way communications are run on a global scale. 

A move into Germany is just the start of ADI’s ambition. They’ve been servicing customers in offices from five continents overall, including France, South Africa and Ireland, as well as the aforementioned UK and Germany. 

There are ADI franchises in South Africa, Northern Africa and right here in Australia, boasting a vast network across the globe. The ADI brand is still growing, with the company open to adding further partners around the world. 

With COVID-19 posing issues for some clubs and organisations, using LED technology and interacting with audiences has become essential in broadcasts, both for club marketing communications and brand or advertising exposure that affect the success of revenue stream. 

You can find out more about how ADI can benefit your club or venue here. 

Premier League announces No Room For Racism Action Plan

No Room For Racism

The Premier League’s No Room For Racism Action Plan has been launched with the aim to eradicate racial prejudice and create more opportunities for minority ethnic groups in football.

The action plan makes commitment in six areas – executive pathways, coaching pathways, player pathways, supporting communities, action against racism and embedding equality.

Action will be taken across all Premier League activity as part of the plan.

Targets have been set in an effort to increase diversity within leadership positions within the Premier League organisation.

By 2026, the Premier League aims to have 42 per cent of roles filled by women as well as having 18 per cent of staff from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

A commitment to continue to take action against racism has also been made with the league to drive awareness, educate fans and improve the enforcement and effectiveness of sanctions.

“Football is a diverse sport, which brings together communities and cultures from all backgrounds,” Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said.

“This diversity has made the game stronger on the pitch and it is vital we ensure this is reflected across all areas of the game.”

“The No Room For Racism Action Plan underpins the Premier League’s continued commitment to promoting equality and tackling discrimination. It builds on the wide-ranging work undertaken by clubs, aiming to ensure that everyone can achieve their potential, regardless of background.

“There is no place for racism in our sport and the Premier League will continue to take action against all forms of discrimination so that football is inclusive and welcoming for all.”

The Premier League also wants to increase the number of coaches from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and will work with football partners to deliver programmes for underrepresented groups.

Further commitments include to ensure that all players have the opportunity to succeed regardless of ethnicity or background, to assist children and youth by promoting aspiration, education and pathways and to support clubs to achieve and report on equality, diversity and inclusion targets.

All 20 Premier League clubs unanimously supported the action plan at a shareholder meeting last week.

The league’s No Room For Racism campaign was launched in March 2019, to work against racial discrimination.

FA reveal 2021 Domestic Match Calendar

The FFA and PFA have today come to terms on a revised Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for Socceroos and Matildas players.

Football Australia have released their 2021 Australian Football Domestic Match Calendar (DMC).

The key features of the 2021 Australian Football DMC include registration periods for Australia’s professional competitions, national team activity windows, A-League and W-League competition windows, final round match dates for the FFA Cup, as well as a standalone spot for the Festival of Football Week, which is set to be introduced in connection with the 2021 FFA Cup Final.

FA CEO James Johnson believes 2021 will be a year of transition towards a completely unified approach for Australian football.

“Flowing on from the unbundling of the Professional Leagues from Football Australia, an important regulatory function for Football Australia as the game’s Governing Body is to set the Domestic Match Calendar in order to lead the realignment of Australia’s football competitions and connect the football pyramid both domestically and globally,” Johnson said.

“The release of the 2021 DMC to football stakeholders, and to the public, is an important step in that process, and we expect to achieve even greater alignment in 2022 as COVID-19 eases and we apply key learnings and insights from 2021.

“Australia’s Domestic Match Calendar will play a vital role in Football Australia’s proposed new and modern transfer system by articulating domestic Transfer Windows which will provide opportunities to progressive clubs at all levels of the sport to conduct player transfer business and generate new revenue streams which can be deployed into the ongoing training and development of players, and the clubs themselves.

“The Domestic Match Calendar will also be fundamental to bringing to life numerous measures proposed in the XI Principles, which in turn supports our bold and exciting new strategic direction for Australian football. The DMC will aid the optimisation of competitions across all levels of the game, help us to reimagine the player pathway, help to increase match minutes for players both in club football and with our national teams, and support football as a sport which is played all year round,” he said.

The 2021 Australian Football Domestic Match Calendar can be viewed here.

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