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Video Assistant Referee Training Portal launched by OZ Sports

OZ Sports have created an Online Training Portal designed to revolutionise the adoption of VAR, despite being in the Covid-19 crisis.

The Portal will serve as a valuable resource for referees and addresses the complexities and costs of existing VAR approaches, as leagues continue to become accustomed with it. OZ Sports are aiming to deliver high-quality referee training and match readiness of existing referees – even though we aren’t in normal circumstances.

The OZ VAR solution has recently been one of the first in the world to be inspected under FIFA’s Quality Programme for VAR Technology. This aims to verify the quality of VAR technologies in areas such as synchronicity, latency and video quality to ensure the highest standards are met.

“By transforming the key challenge of referee training, we are able to simplify the adoption of VAR by leagues around the world,” CEO of OZ Sports, Gudjon Gudjonsson said.

“With our VAR Online Training Portal, referees can train anytime, even from their homes, in a rich interactive environment, making the process simple, efficient and effective, even under the current lockdown.”

The incorporation of OZ’s VAR Online Training Portal does bring new opportunities for off-field practical training to VARs via remote digital training. It reduces the substantial one-off costs and difficulties of certifying VAR officials at specific training areas through resourcing, staffing and time constraints.

The VAR Online Training Portal sits alongside the OZ VAR solution offering which revolutionises the economics of VAR implementation, as VAR has mainly just been used within the top leagues. The OZ Sports VAR solution is a pay-as-you-go service, removing the barriers to adoption at all levels of football by harnessing technology and changing the economics of implementation by reducing costs and requirement of capital outlay.

“The football world has taken crucial steps to modernise its league infrastructures,” Gudjonsson said.

“VAR started as something only for the big leagues, but with the VAR module of the OZ Connected Stadium, a high-quality solution is now a reality for all leagues.

“By harnessing the latest technology including AI and modern network infrastructures, we can remove the need for complex and overly expensive solutions.

“The OZ Connected Stadium is a fundamental change to the way the sector approaches sports infrastructure.”

Liam Watson is a Senior Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on international football policy, industry matters and industry 4.0

Vizrt: Graphic specialists for sports broadcast 

Vizrt are reliable providers of graphics and sports analysis technology, perfect for the media industry during their broadcast. 

Vizrt – short for Visualisation in Real-Time – are a Norwegian company who have created resources to enhance the delivery of sport production. They are a worldwide market leader across the areas of real-time 3D graphics, sports analysis and asset management tools to cater for sports media among others. 

Their specialty involves creating visuals to improve the overall feel of broadcast, including interactive & virtual solutions, animations, maps, weather, story and video editing, as well as compositing, multiplatform Video on Demand (VOD) and live playout tools. 

Vizrt’s philosophy is based on creating a new vision for content creation, management and delivery with an end-to-end solution from conception to multi-format distribution. The software and services designed by Vizet, coupled with ongoing innovation, aims to push the boundaries for what is possible and opens up new opportunities to tell stories. 

If we think about how that could be of use in a sporting context, Vizet have already proven themselves as partners for sports broadcasters and clubs, who can give better insights about what happens in a match or what it means, as well as previews and reviews. 

They have all the tools in sports graphics and analysis to provide greater excitement to the coverage of any sport. Audiences are treated to data-driven augmented reality graphics, advanced analysis, automation tools and quick editing of highlights to get them to fans first. 

As part of Vizrt’s sport production, they bring all the features required to get the very best out of the experience, whether that be at home, in the stands or in the locker room.

One of Vizrt’s Extended Reality solutions is XR – regarded as the world’s most powerful 3D sports analysis tool. In collaboration with Eleven Portugal, Vizrt linked up to deliver a new fan experience to Portuguese audiences. 

Eleven Portugal is the Lisbon-based part of multinational group Eleven Sports, who have sports television channels for sporting events. 

In Portugal, Eleven Sports own the rights to UEFA Champions League, La Liga Santander, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 Uber Eats, Jupiler Pro League, English Football League Championship, Scottish Premiership, Formula 1, F2, F3, Formula E, NASCAR, Porsche Super Cup, NFL, WTA 1000, ATP 250, Liga Endesa and more. The channel slogan is ‘By the Fans. For the Fans.’ 

Eleven Sports wanted to find ways of improving their sports coverage, with Vizrt chosen to lead the way with advanced graphics and new innovations. 

Vizrt’s XR Playbook brought a very powerful 3D analysis to TV programs – presenters were able to explain complex play by play match tactics in a clear and audience-friendly way. This adds more drama and suspense in shows and helps get the most from all sports by engaging the audience with unique insights and knowledge of strategy. 

As part of the collaboration, Vizrt committed towards offering training and guidance via their training and services teams. Deployed in Lisbon, they could educate Eleven Portugal’s editorial and production teams about how to get the most out of Vizrt’s software. 

Fans became immersed with tools for tracking player speed and movement, while the broadcaster makes great use of Virtual Stadium  an augmented reality set that gives a bird’s eye view of the venue. 

It’s this use of Vizrt’s multifaceted technology that can bring heightened significance to any sporting event. 

Vizrt has even helped out Esports broadcasters with their own productions, bringing the same high-quality graphics solutions for match previews and team presentations in particular. The rise and popularity of Esports has seen Vizrt transition their expertise to these events. 

Vizrt’s impressive portfolio of clients and partners include the world’s leading broadcasters, featuring CNN, CBS, Fox, BBC, Sky, ITN, ZDF, Star TV, Network 18, TV Today, CCTV, and NHK. Vizrt’s power of work extends further to many world-class production houses and corporate institutions – such as the New York and London Stock Exchanges – who go to Vizrt’s technology. 

Adaptable to any organisation and industry, Vizrt is able to deliver a whole range of benefits. To find out more on other features, you can view them here. 

Player sentiment up, average age down: PFA releases annual report

Sentiment is well and truly up for A-League players, according to the annual Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) report.

This time last year, only 33% of A-League players felt confident about the direction of their football careers.

According to the PFA’s latest annual report, that number is now 56%.

Of the A-League’s 312 players, 200 responded to the 2020/21 A-League survey, capturing 70% of the current cohort, with the results proving that even despite the ongoing turbulence and uncertainty of COVID-19, the majority of players feel much more confident about their futures within the game.

The report highlights that Australian players actively want to remain in the A-League, as opposed to seeking opportunities overseas.

The key numbers that demonstrate this include:

  • 55% of players said they would like to stay playing in the A-League next season, up from 45% last year.
  • 56% of players are confident about the direction of their football careers, compared to 33% in 2019/20.
  • Only 4% of players would move to an overseas league even if it was for similar money and/or playing standard.
  • Only 16% of players who would prefer to move to an overseas league would only do so if the money and standards were better.

Other highlights of the report include that the average A-League player is getting younger.

Over the last 14 years, the average age of the A-League player has consistently trended upwards.

In 2020/21, however, this changed and the average age trended downwards, dropping from 27.6 to 25.1.

The number of players utilised in the A-League who were aged 21 and under came in at 107, representing 35% of the 300 players who received A-League minutes during the 2020/21 season.

The youngest squads on average belonged to Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United, with average ages of 23.6 and 23.9 years respectively.

Another highlight was the fact that of the league’s 312 contracted players, 300 received A-League minutes.

“These reports have been immensely valuable, helping the PFA and the players better understand the industry in which they are employed, monitor the application of high-performance standards, assess technical progress and survey the players’ experience,” PFA Co-Chief Executive Beau Busch said of the report.

“For the last five years, we have been able to utilise these reports to formulate evidence-based positions to improve the environments in which our members work through collective bargaining.

“Promisingly, after a period of significant uncertainty, the players have indicated that they are more confident in the direction of their careers and the future of the competition than this time last year, signifying a positive shift in the perception of the A-League.”

The report also highlights the fact that A-League attendances were the lowest ever in the competition, thanks in large part to COVID-19, with an average attendance of 5,660.

Foreign players in the league reduced by 12 to a total of 51, whilst the average salary in the A-League is $136,791.

Access the full report HERE.

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