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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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How should Australian football best use its COVID-19 postponement?

FFA head James Johnson revealed the worst keep secret in Australian football early Tuesday morning; announcing the immediate suspension of A-League play on the back of the continued threat of COVID-19 . With states and territories having moved decisively on border control and lock down procedures, Johnson referred to a continuation as having become practically impossible.

The W-League did manage to squeeze their season in before the announcement was made, with a grand final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC last Saturday. The Melbourne City women may well be the last football team in Australia to win a championship for some time.

Words such as unprecedented, unique and testing have been common place in language over the past few weeks and the seriousness of the pandemic escapes no one at this time. Public health and prude governance are the most important aspects of the current situation, hopefully, wise decisions and action lead to a flattening of the curve and a slow return to normality over the next few months.

With around 1.8 million Australians who would normally be engaged with the beautiful game at this time of year in isolation and forbidden to compete, it would be prudent for FFA to think about encouraging behaviours that will benefit domestic football when it does eventually return.

As a first port of call, FFA should interact with the federations and ensure that junior players are sent age and skill appropriate drills to complete whilst confined to their home address. Many children will have a backyard in which to complete the drills, whilst others may be limited to small spaces available in apartments or town houses.

Technical directors could construct short clips and illustrated diagrams and then email and/or text the content to players using the official register in each federation.

Many young people will be feeling anxious about COVID-19, thanks to certain sections of the media that do little to encourage calm and thoughtful behaviour. Providing content for kids to work individually on their football skills would be a nice way to add a dose of normality for what will be a very strange time in their lives.

Slightly older players could also be engaged by their clubs, with coaching staff and technical consultants producing content they feel individual players need to work on. Within a supportive and digital environment, coaches might be able to set goals and objectives for the group and could potentially instil a competitive and diligent commitment to the drills that is so often lacking in junior players.

Players at NPL will find great challenges in maintaining fitness levels during the hiatus, with many young players no doubt living in high density situations with partners and young children. At a professional level, the AFL and NRL have set about the task of outlining fitness programs for their players that are adaptable to both indoor and outdoor environments. No doubt, the A-League will be following suit as we speak.

Many of the AFL players spoken to appeared at a loss as to how they would maintain fitness and skill levels without the expensive and vast resources of the football club to which they below. For NPL players it will be even more difficult, with the now closed local gyms the most common place for them to develop and maintain physical condition.

All NPL clubs need to establish a digital forum that includes the players, support staff and coaches in order to be pro-active during what appears likely to be an extended period away from the game. Once again, that sense of collegiality would be emotionally beneficial and with performance targets in place, the incentive to work collectively could potentially avoid any apathy that may occur in isolation.

The successful E-League concept should be immediately expanded with A and W League players engaged in play. A handful of players from each club with some X-BOX or PlayStation experience could be enlisted to play brief matches live on line, with the games streamed for fans to view via the club’s Facebook pages and the official A-League site.

The banter and enjoyment provided by what would no doubt be a comical yet also potentially competitive competition would further engage young fans and continue the objective of keeping the football community connected at this difficult time.

NPL New South Wales’ Facebook page is leading the way with lateral and creative thinking, already posting classic NPL matches for fans to view. The newly launched NPL.TV offers further potential in terms of streamed content and interaction and the National Premier Leagues’ #PlayAtHomeChallenge is a fun initiative that many players will be drawn to.

There is an emotional component to what all professional sport is about to encounter in Australia and monitoring and measuring that will prove difficult. The mind is fundamentally more important than the body and ensuring our football communities remain connected, active and positive is vitally important as most of us enter a period of isolation thanks to COVID-19.

UK based Eleven Sports Media continues to evolve – where next?

Founded in 2009, Eleven Sports Media continues to have a huge impact on the world of sport, particularly football.

The UK company provides a range of in-stadium products, that give fans a better engagement experience at the stadium.

The company’s development team built both its StadiumTV and StatTV platforms, which are a big part of the match day experience for over 500,000 fans in the UK.

The StadiumTV platform has over 1,800 screens and is now showcased at over 50 sporting venues, making Eleven the biggest media network in UK sport.

Its StatTV and StatTracker channel brings live stats to stadiums and official club social media platforms.

While their products continue to garner widespread attention, brands associated with the company are allowed to engage with these huge audiences across the football landscape.

Eleven have provided various partners with comprehensive activations, including PR support, detailed campaign reports, social media amplification and organised marketing opportunities.

The company has had critical success with its Partner Programmes setup, with their model recognised as the best in the Football Business Awards.

Eleven have a partnership with the London Stadium as well as clubs such as Newcastle United, Rangers Football Club and Leeds United.

The company believes the expertise and knowledge they have is a huge asset in a commercial partnership programme.

“We realised that many brands failed to have a predefined activation plan when they were partnering with clubs,” CEO of Eleven Sports Media, Matt Cairns, told fcbusiness.

“They were spending money on acquiring rights but then didn’t have a plan in place to fully activate that sponsorship and make it work.”

Eleven identified that there was little structure to most commercial partner programmes, therefore they implemented an organised tiered structure.

The use of segmented LED with their proprietary inventory, as well as a strong focus on applying activation strategies, help brands pinpoint the commercial opportunities they can capitalise on.

“We’ve sold or facilitated over 300 partnerships in the last 12 months and everyone has had built in activation which has been delivered by Eleven.

“We advise each partner on the exposure to be gained from the media buy, but also ensure that their campaign is amplified by helping the partner celebrate the partnership and ultimately raise the profile of the brand by taking their association with the club beyond traditional football audiences.”

Many start-ups lack the resources to take advantage of commercial benefits in a partnership, so Eleven has tried to address this.

By arranging an end-to-end solution, Eleven takes accountability to ensure partnerships are fully activated.

“For a partner programme to have true commercial success, it goes well beyond having the correct list of assets.

“There are dozens of variables which will result in success or failure, at Eleven we believe that it is that attention to detail which sets us apart from anyone else in the industry,” added Cairns.

Eleven gives clubs access to in-depth insights, campaign analysis and sales training to improve aspects of each partnership.

The use of Eleven’s Insights department has already given clubs the opportunity to achieve their highest commercial numbers in a partnership.

“Although clubs have commercial teams, many don’t have that dedicated resource around insight that we have where they can really delve into that next level of commercial insight,” added Eleven’s commercial manager, Jordan Wilson.

“We found that we were delivering it so successfully for ourselves it made sense that clubs should get this too and they’re finding it really valuable.

“It also gives us that next level of insight when creating new partnerships, ones that are meaningful and built on something.”

Cairns adds: “When a company is investing in a high-level sponsorship it can achieve certain goals by a standard associated set of rights, but it won’t achieve the true value unless it is harnessed and leveraged by the brand to the point it becomes ingrained in every part of the organisation.

“We understand that and have got a proven track record in delivering this service.”

With over ten significant UK Clubs already using the model, the Eleven Partner Programme is looking to explore its possibilities in Europe and other areas.

Is this a viable proposition to those in Australian football circles?

FIFA opens World Cup video archive during COVID-19

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has opened up a men’s and women’s World Cup video archive featuring full matches due to the mass suspension of domestic and international games caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The aim is to bring football home with people able to have their say upon the release of a new video archive that will help get people through this unfolding crisis.

The #WorldCupAtHome campaign will see more than 30 past matches made available and premiered from 21st March via FIFA’s official website and YouTube channel, as well as its Weibo channel in China.

The soccer body have based the campaign around allowing fans to vote on games they want to see via social media. Additional engagement opportunities will also allow viewers to interact with live chat on YouTube and vote for a favourite moment of the match.

FIFA will additionally make available a catalogue of its in-house documentary features and interviews with some of soccer’s biggest names.

Due to the isolation process that people will continue to experience likely being over the next few months, the archive is designed to be an immersive experience that gives fans the chance to relive their favourite and most memorable moments and gaining the best experience possible from their homes.

FIFA has already seen its opening votes, with Spain vs Netherlands edging Brazil vs Colombia and Germany vs Argentina in a 2014 World Cup vote, while in the France 2019 Women’s World Cup poll, the semi-final between England and USA prevailed over France vs USA.

As fans all around the world are craving something to enjoy in these unprecedented times, FIFA has put their foot forward to unite fans in a time of uncertainty – providing us with this access to games in tricky times for us all.

This voting process will take place over the next six weeks, helping fill a void left by the growing number of competitions to suspend their seasons.

Until regular football activities are resumed, we’ll be able to take the time to reflect on past achievements and milestones all around the world and celebrate the game that is.

© 2019 Soccerscene Industry News. All Rights reserved.

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