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Football technology – A brief overview

Football technology has not been used in the game itself for very long.
Football technology is becoming increasingly important.

Football & technology have been together for 100 years. On the one hand, they have stimulated each other, on the other hand, they have led to discussions. For example, radio and television broadcasts contributed to the popularity of football and the enthusiasm for the sport had a positive effect on the media. On the other hand, discussions about slow motion in television broadcasts or the use of these as video evidence have been going on since the 1960s.

Here is a brief overview:

GLT (Goal line technology)

After two years of intensive testing, The IFAB chose Hawkeye technology at a special meeting following the 2012 European Championship.

At the next Annual General Meeting in spring 2013, The IFAB decided that each competition could decide to use GLT. The condition was that either all participating teams use GLT or none of them. If GLT is available, it must be used.

Since 2016, the regulations on goal line technology have been part of the Laws of the Game. In 2019 the Testing Manual was replaced by the FIFA Quality Programme for BMS.

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Goal assistant referees

In the course of discussions and tests on GLT, the goalkeepers came into conversation. But they were not a new idea.

As early as 1893 , at the Annual Generel Meeting of The IFAB, it was discussed whether it would make sense to introduce goal referees (“goal judges”). 1893 means that there were two years after the introduction of the independently acting referee on the field of play. It was also the year in which the decisions of the referee were established as factual decisions.
However, the idea of goal referees did not find a majority and was the only mention of such an idea.

“Mr Reid proposed and Mr Gregson seconded, that the supplementary notices proposed by the Welsh and Irish Associations be considered passed.
Law 12. Proposed by Mr Reid, seconded by Mr Dawson.
“That the following be inserted in this rule:- “That goal judges be appointed (subject to the decision of the referee) to decide when the ball has passed between the posts”.
The meeting discussed the proposal and eventually decided that owing to the increase of officials rendered necessary by this rule it [was] found unworkable.
The proposition was then withdrawn.”
– Minutes of the AGM of The IFAB, 1893.

Nevertheless, it lived on. For example, the football rules of the Turn- und Sport association of workers in Germany in the 1920s called literally goal judges. However, since this association was not a member of FIFA, it could (and still can) have its own rules.

But it also affected competitive matches played by members of FIFA. In the top Spanish league, goal referees (“juez de gol”) were appointed from 1914 at the latest. This was not a brief experiment, although the Spanish Football Association was a member of FIFA from the very beginning (with one brief exception). Goal referees existed in Spain until 1939. Ein spanischer Bericht verwendete eins der damaligen Fotos für seinen Bericht über Michel Platins Forderung nach Torrichtern “UEFA president Michel Platini wants to get him back to oversee what happens in the areas. The goal judge returns.” is the English translation of the title of this Spanish article. Further articles about goal judges in Spain (which are available online)  are “El ‘test del gol’, peor hoy que hace cien años” and “La UEFA ensaya con dos jueces de gol“.

And certainly Germany and Spain are not the only countries where goal referees have been discussed or used.

VAR (Video assistant referee) & Co

In 2015, the IFAB’s AGM presented a test by the Dutch association KNVB, which we are all familiar with and which was launched in the Netherlands on 6 April 2011. Additional assistant referees are connected to the referee by radio, can access television broadcasting and sit in a van outside the stadium.

After the project was presented at the Annual General Meeting of The IFAB, the member associations (FIFA and the four British associations) expressed their scepticism. But they were keen to promote this project. Only FIFA with president Joseph Blatter distanced himself from further steps, recalling the role of The IFAB as “guardian of the game”. Blatter asked that further experiments with video support must strongly be carried out and so possible advantages and disadvantages could be fully understood before a decision could be made.

It was Blatter’s last AGM. In 2016 Gianni Infantino was sitting in his place. And Infantino supported this project, so a two-year test phase was started in different leagues in different countries.

Since 2018 VAR and AVAR can be used in a competition. It is not specified whether the VOR, the video operating room, is in a van in front of the stadium or a defined room in a building.

The RRA, the referee review area, was also introduced with its pitch-side monitors, where the referees can watch the scenes in question once again using TV pictures. This is the OFR, the on-field review. The RRA is located on a visible field outside the field and is clearly marked. At least one RRA must be present. Except for the referee (and on request of his assistant referees), no one may enter it.

Three Links

At this point I would like to recommend an post about video evidence before the introduction of VAR.

Furthermore, here is an overview of the costs of VAR in the Bundesliga (in German).

Also brilliant: The website of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (English version). Not only does it list all known and bizarre patent applications for the techniques discussed here, but it also lets you participate in the development of the ball and other things.

Calibrated offside line

At a match of SC Sandhausen in the 2nd Bundesliga in October 2017, FIFA tested several providers. It became clear that some technologies could implement the first requirements very well. For example, already at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, calibrated lines VAR and AVAR could help to make tight offside decisions better and faster. A video graphic will also be made available to TV stations when an offside decision is reviewed by VAR.

In the first half of 2020, tests were conducted to make offside decisions even clearer using artificial intelligence. These tests have been very promising. It is planned to use them at the Men’s World Championship in 2022.

EPTS (Electronic performance and tracking systems)

EPTS has been discussed in the AGMs of The IFAB since 2013. The Scottish Association proposed this year that the IFAB should form a consultation group to explore the future possibilities of such systems. It also proposed that the use of the data should be limited to half the time and to team doctors. Team physicians should be able to use a limited version of the system. However, the proposal did not get a majority on the board. A year later, EPTS was discussed again and the issue was referred to the newly formed TAP and FAP, the Technical Advisory Panel and the Football Advisatory Panel of the IFAB to gather more data and information for a decision. In the following AGM, FAP and TAP informed that they had tested EPTS as an experiment. It had shown ” a great success in amateur and recreational football. The number of players participating increased significantly. In addition, it prevented teams from being eliminated in the middle of the year and helped players returning after injury by better managing their playing time”. After the report, the board wanted further research into a) a quality assessment of the various systems, b) the use of data and c) the licensing process. It also stressed that the data should not be used in real time, but only for medical purposes.
In 2016, EPTS was approved and at the same time the development of an IFAB standard for EPTS continued. Meanwhile the use of EPTS for team officials is allowed, but only with small mobile devices like microphone, headphones, smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc. Furthermore, EPTS may not only be used for medical purposes, but also for coaching.

The equipment of referees and assistant referees

Today, not only whistle, cards, pad and pen belong to the referee’s equipment. Or a simple flag to equip the assistant referees. Football technology is of course also used by match officials.

In 2000 there was still a debate about whether radio communication for match officials should be introduced, and it was tested twice (2002 and 2006). In 2012, it was allowed under the condition that only match officials use radio communication and that it is not recorded or broadcast.

EPTS and fitness equipment are now also permitted, while jewellery and other electronic devices are banned. At the highest level, the referees wear a full-duplex radio with an adapted headset to communicate with their assistants, and the assistant referees use electronic flags that send a signal to the referee when a button is pressed. And during matches using goal-line technology, referees wear a device on their person to receive the system’s warnings.

Artificial surfaces

Until 2000, the use of artificial surfaces were only permitted under certain conditions in the higher leagues. However, in football technology for creating a turflike surface from artificial materials had improved considerably in the 1990s. In 2000, the use of artificial turf was relaxed (“national association are allowed to use this material more widely”) and in 2002 it was permitted for the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

At the 2002 Annual General Meeting, The IFAB emphasised the advantage of artificial turf in regions where the climate is too cold or too hot for natural turf and also the economic advantage as the pitch can be used for several purposes. FIFA quickly developed a quality standard. Since 2004, it has no longer been necessary to play on grass as long as the artificial surface meets the requirements (FIFA Quality Concept for Artificial Turf Standard, renamed FIFA Quality Concept for Football Turf in 2009).

Two further specifications that have been made relate to the definition of the colour green (2007) and that lines that are not permitted for football matches must be made in another colour in order to distinguish them (2011).

Since 2016, hybrid systems of natural and artificial turf have been permitted, provided the competition rules allow it.

For those who are more interested in the subject and wish to share their own experience and knowledge: FIFA Football Technology & Innovation is looking for support in further development. You can register until 31 August (see link below).

“HELP FIFA IMPROVE UNDERSTANDING OF THE GAME THROUGH RESEARCH

The FIFA 2.0 Vision outlines FIFA’s objectives for the development of football and the football experience over the next years. One of the pillars of this strategy is leveraging technology and generating knowledge that will help to improve the game of football at all levels.

The FIFA Football Technology & Innovation subdivision is therefore keen to engage with the research community to help solve these challenges.

The Football Technology & Innovation subdivision has four well-defined areas (see below) of collaboration with football stakeholders, industry as well as research & test institutes. The increasing scope of the FIFA Quality Programme and the potential role that new technologies can play in improving the game directly or indirectly (through new means of assessing or quantifying the game) open up a number of avenues that FIFA is interested in exploring with the research community.”

More information can be accessed via this link.