Technology in modern football

We now live in the golden age of technology. That’s a given. 

Everything you could do on a computer 20 years ago can now be done twice as fast on a device five times smaller. 

It’s the way of the future and there’s no disputing that. 

Even sports that were created thousands of years ago are now utilising technology in attempts to make their game better. 

Football is no exception. Take the recently completed 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

This World Cup was arguably one of the best in recent memory and one filled with many amazing memories.  

From the 3-3 draw between Spain and Portugal, to the explosion of Kylian Mbappe and to the shock elimination of Germany, it was a tournament that never ceased to amaze. 

But this World Cup was also the first to use the newly introduced VAR (or Video Assistant Referee) program. 

Granted, the program isn’t perfect and will take some time until it’s unanimously considered a good addition to the world game. 

Just like any technologically advanced program in sport, the VAR has its naysayers. And these people aren’t necessarily incorrect, either. 

The fact the referee is left with the final decision is a part of the program that has caused perhaps the most controversy. 

This is perhaps where those in charge can look at a sport like cricket, which utilises the third umpire system perfectly and utilises a technologically advanced program in a way that is conducive to the product and quality of the sport. 

But with the way the world is moving on and off the football pitch, it’s a great place to start, despite its controversial outcomes in some matches in Russia, none more so than the final. 

Looking past VAR, there are many other forms of technology that allow the game to be improved.  

Referees at a high enough level wear watches that don’t just tell them when to blow their whistles to start or end play, but also shots on goal that may or may not have crossed the line. 

Big screens at matches allow fans to be able to see the game from a viewpoint closer to the action as well as their general view. 

Live footballing updates from around the globe, something usually hard to come by have now been made so readily available in the last 20 years that it’s as easy as turning your phone on and opening an application. 

We even see this at National Premier League level in Australia through the use of football updates app Futbol24. 

People nowadays can see everything on these kinds of apps.

From who’s starting, who’s on the substitutes bench, who gets yellow carded, who gets red carded, who scores, you get the picture. 

This kind of access is unprecedented and has allowed the world game to develop into exactly that, a game that can be viewed and kept track of worldwide. 

It’s gotten so far that on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, games can be recorded (even if it’s just in small doses) and broadcasted live to anyone in the world who wishes to watch the match. 

Live broadcasting isn’t something we aren’t accustomed to but the way in which broadcasting has evolved ever since the 70’s and 80’s has seen the game grow rapidly in some parts of the world. 

Let’s look at the 2018 World Cup again. The way the games were broadcasted in Russia was vastly different to that of previous tournaments. 

In previous tournaments, games would be shown on recognised channels in different countries and for Australia that was SBS. 

For the Russia tournament, Optus acquired the rights to broadcast all 64 games and this was seen as a step into the future.  

For a few years now we have become accustomed to seeing popular movies, TV shows and documentaries finding their way onto streaming services such as Netflix and Stan. 

For football, it was time to make a similar move into the future. But despite all the promises made, Optus wasn’t able to deliver and its coverage of the tournament was amateurish and left many football fans across Australia shattered at not being able to see the finals of the greatest tournament on planet Earth. 

But despite all this, perhaps the biggest technological change in football has been with how players train. 

With so much technology now at clubs’ disposal, there are countless ways for players to be trained that are now vastly different and superior to some of the methods used way back when. 

Australian company Preau Sports has come up with a genius idea to incorporate new technology into the training of aspiring footballers across the globe. 

Their project ‘SmartGoals’ is a fun and innovative way of allowing technology to become an integral part of training sessions and player development from the grassroots level all the way up to clubs that are playing in the UEFA Champions League. 

‘SmartGoals’ are training cones that light up when sensors in and around the cone have been triggered. So when a player kicks a ball between two different cones, they will light up. 

This information can then be stored onto a cloud and then documented by the respective clubs to keep a close eye on player’s development and improvement over time. 

All information can be stored and viewed on the SmartGoals app which is the cherry on top of this revolutionary idea. 

With this technology now in the hands of some of the biggest clubs in Europe such as Ajax Amsterdam, it’s extremely safe to say that technology in football has arrived and if anyone has anything to say about it, it’s going to improve the quality of football and footballers to no end.

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Serie A Gets in on ESports with FIFA

A brand new ESports tournament is set to hit Europe after the Serie A, in combination with marketing partner Infront Media, launched a brand new tournament for the FIFA game series.

The FIFA series is widely regarded as one of the most popular sports titles of all time. Their latest game, FIFA 20, reached 10 million worldwide players in October of last year.

Over the years, FIFA has been a staple of many football fans gaming collection. Only recently has the game delved into the world of ESports.

FIFA and Electronic Arts (EA) first introduced competitive online play in 2009 with their first iteration of the online game mode, ‘Ultimate Team’. Gamers could select any players to play in their sides against another gamer in an online match, with the best players earning promotion to higher divisions.

In FIFA 17, EA began looking to ESports and a more serious approach for online gaming with the introduction of ‘Weekend League’. Here, players would build squads as per usual, except it wasn’t just promotion on the line. Gamers could obtain better players as a result of performing better than everyone else.

Very quickly, EA and FIFA saw the market’s need for a competition to separate the best from the very best and ESports’ collaboration with FIFA began.

The Premier League, MLS and our own A-League have since jumped on board and teams from all of those competitions have registered players to represent their respective clubs in ESports leagues and competitions.

Now, the Serie A has also seen the potential in ESports and a tournament has been launched.

Qualification for the sport is limited to participants who are aged 16 and over, are willing to represent a Serie A top flight club such as Juventus, Inter Milan and AS Roma and they must play on the PlayStation 4 console.

Luigi De Siervo, Serie A Chief Executive has this to say regarding the announcement of the tournament.

“ESports are a phenomenon in continuous growth and expansion and represent one of the key sectors of business in sport.”

“We have the great opportunity to involve an increasingly broad and cross-sectional target, thus bringing us closer to the new generations. All fans will now be able to follow a new championship and the best will be able to represent their favourite team by challenging themselves with their gamepads.”

The ESports competitions, particularly those based around FIFA, have generated copious amounts of attention on popular video sharing platform YouTube and online streaming service Twitch.

FIFA has become a very niche area for people with large areas of reach on the aforementioned websites. Many ‘YouTubers’ have begun playing professionally and have attracted large amounts of fans as a result of their online exploits.

Many of these fans attempt to follow in the footsteps of these professional gamers and as a result, the attention generated for ESports and especially FIFA has spiked ever since ‘Weekend League’ was born.

Online play in the tournament will begin on Monday and Tuesday, with a Grand Final set for May later this year.


Hyundai Gone as Major A-League Sponsor?

In a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, the FFA is set to lose one of its longest-serving sponsors in June.

Hyundai has been the A-League’s major sponsor since the very beginning in 2004. Should they cease sponsorship of the A-League, it would be the end of an era.

According to the report from SMH, Hyundai’s main reasoning is that they feel the interest in the A-League is steadily declining combined with poor revenue in their own market.

Hyundai is also reportedly still at odds with the FFA regarding the unceremonious sacking of former Matildas’ coach Alen Stajcic. Stajcic’s dumping still leaves a sour taste in many people’s mouths, even Hyundai.

Should Hyundai can its sponsorship with the A-League, it will unfortunately join a number of other former sponsors who, in recent times also decided to walk out the door on their partnerships.

“Conversations are currently ongoing between Hyundai and Football Federation Australia around Hyundai’s naming rights partnership with the game,” said Bill Thomas, Hyundai’s Director of Marketing.

“Currently we are not in a position to go into detail about these discussions but we will be announcing our plans at the appropriate time.”

Hypothetically, if Hyundai were no longer sponsors for the A-League, what would happen?

The A-League wouldn’t be the first major competition in Australia to not have title partners. The NPL competitions across the country have used sponsors in recent times such as PS4, but do not have one at the time of writing this.

Perhaps the most well-known competition in Australia without a title partner is the FFA Cup.

Back in 2017, Westfield, who were the major sponsors for the knockout tournament since its formation in 2014, decided to withdraw their sponsorship of the Cup.

The Cup has run well without major sponsorship in the two and a half years since Westfield departed, but could the A-League enjoy such success without a title partner like Hyundai?

The report from SMH says that the deal isn’t completely dead in the water, but that any talks to further the sponsorship are suggesting any deal won’t run past 2021 anyway.

The FFA, by convincing Hyundai to stay on for one extra year, is likely looking to bide some time whilst they find another title partner.

Hyundai also covers the W-League, which would mean any sponsorship withdrawal from the South Korean manufacturer would have a significant impact on the women’s game too.

The writing seems to be on the wall for the FFA and this deal, despite the potential for Hyundai to stay on for one more year.

Sponsors can come and go in the sporting industry. We see it all the time with sporting brands such as Adidas, Puma and Nike. Premier League club Arsenal used Adidas during their early Premier League days before moving to Puma.

Now, they’re back with Adidas. So companies don’t seem to mind where they sponsor, so long as they get paid well for it.

Hyundai’s relationship with the FFA and the A-League however was about more than money.

It will be fascinating to see who jumps on as the next title partner for the A-League whenever Hyundai decide that their time is up.

From all of us here at Soccerscene, we thank the South Korean car manufacturer for all their support since 2004 because arguably, the league wouldn’t be where it is today without them.

Whoever steps up in their place will not have just a great chance to make waves in the industry, but there will also be a lot of pressure to reach the same level Hyundai got to.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Are you happy for a fresh start without Hyundai? Or are you sad to see them go after nearly 16 years of incredible support?

Get involved in the conversation on Twitter @Soccersceneau

Is a changing climate making summer football in Australia an impossibility?

Politicians who deny the obvious reality that the climate is constantly changing are few and far between. Tensions do arise when the reasons behind the changes become the topic of conversation. Such disagreement around that point does not require exploration on Soccerscene.com.au.

However, what does require some though and reflection is the decision to play Australia’s top tiers of both men’s and women’s football during the summer months. It was a no-brainer when it came to the W-League, with a mirroring of the men’s competition and the potential for double-headers and cross promotion informing the decision.

Therefore, the powers at be made the logical choice to play the elite women’s competition at the same time of year as the men, amidst the stifling summer heat that appears to only intensify as the decades roll by.

Australian men’s football had its origins in the winter months until the decision was made to shift the then NSL competition to summer in the season of 1989/90. It was a dramatic change and one that many saw as having great potential due to football avoiding direct competition with the nation’s more established and ingrained winter codes.

Others feared the move, the heat and the potential cultural change that it would bring to fans of clubs that had existed in a steady winter routine within which they were quite comfortable.

The thinking behind the move was not only to disassociate football from other domestic codes. Matching the Australian season with European competitions would eventually see transfer windows align and allow for greater fluidity of movement for players.

Furthermore, international windows would coincide, Australia could compete in future World Cups without detrimental impact on the local scene and quite ironically, the thinking was that fans would enjoy matches in more pleasant weather, outside the wet and sodden coldness of winter.

How the thinking on weather and climate has turned since the final days of the 20th Century.

Increasingly hot conditions over the last 10 years and a clear rise in average temperatures has led many to call for a return to winter for both the A and W Leagues. Those voices cite health risks and potential disaster for players, officials and fans.

Drinks breaks and some flexibility in kick-off times exist as contingency plans, however, 40 degree Celsius days that ease off to 35 degree evenings offer players little respite from the heat. Most importantly, the standard of football is tested under such conditions and there is an obvious and negative impact to the product in both leagues.

Season 2019/20 has had the added challenge of smoke and ash from the bush fires that have ravaged the eastern and southern parts of the nation. Adelaide United fans called out the A-League and FFA after those with the power to alter a kick-off time were reluctant to do so.

The Red’s active support group threatened to boycott matches should the situation arise again.

Fans have also stayed away in Sydney and Melbourne with a throat scratching haze decreasing the pleasure and enjoyment of attending a football match. The challenge of boarding public transport in extreme late afternoon conditions to ensure arrival at the venue for a 7 or 7:30pm kick-off has also led to many staying away.

An increasing number of fans of the A and W Leagues have been content to watch matches at a local hotel or in their own home.

Whilst an outlier season of heat and oppressive conditions might not be enough to convince many that a move back to winter is required. The consistency of temperature increases and a sustained pattern has many starting to think twice about when Australian football should be played.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has found that 2019 was indeed the warmest year on record. The data also confirms that all states and the Northern Territory experienced both maximum and minimum temperature records and rainfall across the country was 40% below average levels.

It made for the driest year on record and led to much of the dry fuel that saw more than 11 million hectares destroyed across the nation.

That pattern has seen summer footballers roast in the highest average decade (2010-2019) of mean temperatures on record. 2019 saw maximum temperatures reach 2.09 degrees above historical averages and the current summer stands to be another in a long line of record breaking seasons.

In my view, Australian football works better in the summer months, for many of the reasons outlined above. However, should such weather patterns persist, as the experts suggest they will, further questions around the viability of holding football competitions in Australia during summer will continue to be asked.

There will indeed be a tipping point and player health and safety will potentially be the deal breaker that eventually sees matches postponed until conditions are conducive to playing football.

Playing the game in summer had immense upside but a changing climate looms as a serious threat to the move.

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