With the 2018 World Cup in full swing, and thoughts of recreating the magic of 1966 rushing through everyone’s head, it seems an appropriate time, amongst all the drama and excitement on the field, to take a look at some of the ground-breaking technological changes both on and off the pitch.
It’s impossible to read a newspaper that doesn’t contain one article related to the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). Having been tested in Australia’s Hyundai A-League a little over a year ago, the technology has been scrutinised and re-developed on multiple occasions, leading up to its full introduction at the World Cup this summer.
Put simply, VAR has been implemented in order to attempt to correct poor refereeing decisions and any missed incidents in clearly defined match-changing decisions. The referees at the World Cup can either rely on verbal information from the video assistant referee (four are employed to observe every game, based centrally in a Moscow control room) or may review video footage themselves on the side of the field. VAR itself does not make any decisions, rather it advises the referee in reviewing a potentially game-changing incident.
This year’s World Cup is also being shown in 4K and high dynamic range by a number of broadcasters. Due to the fact the technology uses up large amounts of data, in the UK in particular, the BBC is limiting the trial so a certain number of viewers in order to avoid ruining stream quality. Due to the success of the technology, the BBC have announced plans to show Wimbledon in the format.
Sticking with the BBC, there’s also been considerable innovations in the Virtual Reality (VR) world. The World Cup is the first time VR has been trialled at a major sporting tournament, and it hasn’t disappointed. Viewers can watch all 64 games in virtual reality through the BBC VR platform which is accessible via Android, Apple, Oculus and Samsung, allowing users to immerse themselves through the lens of a virtual VIP suite as if they are watching from a stadium in Russia. Telemundo is also trialling the technology.
This may seem like it’s been a long time coming, and it has been, but finally the International Football Association Board (IFAB) has allowed two devices to be provided for each team at the 2018 World Cup – one with an analyst in the stands and one with a coach pitch-side. Following the fashion of other major sports, the tablets allow teams to track positional data of the players, enabling coaches to assess player performances according to real-time statistics in order to make more informed decisions during the match.
Adidas Telstar 10
Everyone loves a World Cup ball. Fact. Memories of the 2010 Adidas Jabulani, the ball that made everyone feel like they were back on the playground re-enacting famous Roberto Carlos free-kicks, will always spring to mind when discussing this topic. This year, however, Adidas have cut back on the curl and lightweight side of things and focused more on history. The ball for the 2018 World Cup takes its name from Adidas’ iconic 1970 World Cup ball, which was the first to have a black and white chequered pattern in order to allow viewers to differentiate between the ball and the pitch … oh how thankful we are for colour television!
The ball is also fitted with a near-field communication (NFC) chip, which isn’t overly exciting as it doesn’t monitor ball flight or speed, like Adidas’ miCoach ball, but it can connect to any Android or iOS device to allow fans the opportunity to interact with the ball and receive exclusive digital World Cup content … but hey, it has a microchip inside of it!