Euro 2020: Top Tech Innovations Behind The Game
With the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament coming to a close, there is no doubt that this year’s tournament has been filled with nail-biting moments and has brought excitement back into the lives of millions around the world.
Technology and Innovation mean that the game is changing, and it is a heavy debate on both sides about whether it is changing for the better or the worse.
With the introduction of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in the tournament for the first time after being used in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, we explore Four Tech Innovations and Startups brought to the spotlight in the midst of this year 2020 Euro tournament.
Video Assistant Referee
Perhaps the most controversial and heavily debated, Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, is a team made of assistant referees, who review certain decisions made by the match referee by watching videos of the incident from numerous angles, to make sure the correct decision was made, and to overturn it if not.
Although it seems like an extremely helpful and useful tool for professional football games, Fans themselves have expressed frustrations over the technology. Almost half of the football fans surveyed say the technology makes the game less exciting, and only 30% of fans think that VAR has actually improved the game.
The main problem that fans have with the technology is that it interrupts the flow and excitement of games. Long stoppage times to assess pedantic offside moments where players are off by millimetres, and clear and obvious fouls being ignored are moments of frustration for players and fans.
In the Euros, VAR usage and stoppage time is at an all-time low compared to other UEFA tournaments and has been used far more efficiently. It seems as if VAR could be a powerful tool in Football when used correctly. If VAR can stick to big decisions and clear and obvious fouls, the system may gain more popularity amongst fans and players.
Football fans around the world remember the Frank Lampard goal that was disallowed at the 2010 world cup, resulting in the elimination of the English team, and very angry players and fans all over the globe.
For those of you that haven’t watched it, you can here if you can bear the frustration.
Lampard’s goal hit the crossbar and bounced over the goal line before being swept up by German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and the goal being ignored by the ref. Officials realized it was not something that could happen again and after years of trials GLT, which would track when the ball crosses the goal line, was formally introduced in 2012 and used for the first time in 2013.
Prior to its introduction, The 2012 Euros saw a controversial ghost goal from Ukraine against England, where referees deemed the goal disallowed, despite clear evidence it had gone into the goal and crossed the line, resulting in a loss for Ukraine.
Goal Line Technology has been extremely present in this year’s Euros, completely eliminating any hesitations about awarding goals. Without GLT, Mislav Oršić’s goal against Spain may have been disallowed, much like similar goals in previous years.
Goal-line technology is far less controversial compared to its sister the VAR, proving to be very much more effective at determining the outcome of the goal. After numerous highly controversial ghost goals in football history, GLT is definitely paving the way for a better game of football.
Changing global football analytics, Player Maker designs tracking bands that strap onto boots, and through unique algorithms, the company has created ways to track unique player analytics.
It is Player Maker’s use of AI, the algorithms they have come up with and the fact that the tracker straps onto a players foot, not arm or hand, that makes this product unique.
Not only is foot movement tracked, but insights like kick velocity, playing tempo (one-touch and short/long possession, regaining time, passes per possession, lost balls, work rate, completed passes, stride length and more can all be tracked and analyzed through Player Makers technology.
The company is bringing its technology to football players at all levels, with over 150 elite academies and professional teams, from IMG academy to Arsenal having trailed and used the product in training.
The Technology was recently accepted as one of three innovations in the FIFA innovation program and is backed by Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s head of football development and former Arsenal Manager.
They offer two platforms, PlayMaker for teams and UNO by PlayMaker for individual players.
Although the technology only has a place in training and not games, players from teams like Arsenal and Liverpool bring what they have learnt with the technology in training onto the pitch.
Data is becoming more and more important in sport these days, and this crossover between AI and Football looks like it will thrive in the future as players and coaches of all levels are able to take full advantage of its abilities.
Europe’s largest Football database Tonsser is helping scouts recruit amateur football players by providing amateur players with a platform to showcase their skills stats.
Users upload their stats after matches and at the end of the week can be ranked as top players in their area, and win awards and player of the match.
Amateur players use the app to showcase their talent, and scouts use the app to find this amateur talent, without having to spend time and money they don’t have travelling, visiting and recruiting players.
Founders Peter Holm and Simon Hjære started the platform after they recognized that there was a huge pool of talent going unnoticed in the Football world.
The two believed their app would fix this problem so much that they used the platform to create a team to play professional teams such as Paris Saint-German (last-minute PSG goal resulted in a draw) and has proven that Tonsser United (made up of only non-academy players who use Tonsser) is a force to be reckoned with.
Tonsser and Tonsser united are changing the way footballers are recruited, eliminating gut feelings and coach instinct about players and more relying on data and the player themselves.
The platform is highly successful and is working with a number of amateur and smaller football clubs to recruit players. Tonsser has already provided a huge number of players with professional careers, with 65% of players on their Tonsser United team being offered a Pro Contract or trial.
Denmark’s goalscorer on Wednesday night at the Euros Mikkel Damsgaard, as well as Denmark’s Jonas Wind both started their careers with Tonsser, as well as one of the world’s best strikers right now, Norway’s Erling Haaland, who Chelsea FC have very keen eyes on.
Tonsser and Tonsser United both are taking huge steps in changing how players are recruited, and the future of football teams globally.
Looking to the Future
Football is changing with technology and there is no doubt that we will see more and more football-related innovations in the future, and with them perhaps more controversy. FIFA’s innovation program is growing, and Football related startups and tech companies are on the rise gaining popularity amongst many players and fans.
With England taking on Italy this Sunday in their first major cup final since 1966, VAR and GLT will likely play a huge role in the game, after a slightly controversial penalty against Denmark, verified by VAR, won England the semi-final in extra time.
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Harry Kane scored the winning goal after a VAR approved penalty. Image via Sky News.