The 2018 edition of the biggest football celebration, Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup has entered it final round of group matches and the impact and influence new technologies have had on the game can not be over emphasized.
Technology plays a key role in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russia and this digital transformation has led to the introduction of many innovative technologies.
This ranges from the Adidas’ Telstar ball which includes an NFC chip, 5G networks, 4K UHD Video and VR.
However, the most influential technology is the Video Assistant Referee system (VAR).
VAR system is video technology that helps referees to reach more correct decisions during games; it will be used for the first time at the World Cup in Russia.
The VAR system uses 33 broadcast camera feeds and 2 dedicated offside cameras and using a fibre-based radio system, transmits directly to the Video Operation Room (VOR) in the International Broadcast Center, Moscow.
Of these, 8 feeds are super slow motion and 4 are ultra slow motion.
At knockout games, there will be 2 additional ultra slow motion cameras.
In the VOR room will be a VAR team made-up of a lead VAR and 3 assistants who can speak to the on-field referee using the same network.
The idea is for each VAR to look at a different camera feed and inform the on-field referee of any mistakes, missed incidents or offer assistance when the referee asks for it.
VAR simply allows referees to refer a “game changing situation” to a video referee for help.
This includes goals, penalties, red cards and mistaken identity.
VAR was successful employed 4 years ago for the World Cup in Brazil and had been trialed in the FA and Carabao and the previous German and Italian leagues.
A similar system has also been used in rugby, tennis and the NFL.
In March, VAR was unanimously approved by the International Football Association in Zurich who voted to introduce the system permanently.
However, there are many criticisms of the system; the main one being that even with access to VAR, referees have still made incorrect decisions.
Since the laws of football are subjective in nature-even with the availability of replays-there remain debates about penalty incidents and coming to a decision is still dependant on human interpretation.
Another criticism is that in-stadium crowds have often been unaware that VAR is being used to review a decision especially in venues with no big screen.
FIFA has said that they are working to improve that with the “VAR Information System” which ensures that broadcasters, commentators and in-stadium infotainment operators will be informed.
The speed of the game being affected is another problem critics have with the VAR system.
The time taken to reach a decision disrupts the flow of the match with some games that used VAR having produced five or six minutes of first half stoppage time.
And this is all before considering that many of the World Cup referees will be lacking experience of the technology.
Despite all these criticisms, the sport’s governing bodies will be employing VAR during the World Cup and FIFA President Swiss-Italian Gianni Infantino said, it will have a positive impact.
He stated that since the introduction of VAR the level of accuracy of almost 1,000 games increased from 93% to 99%.
Aside the introduction of VAR, this year’s World Cup will make use of other technologies, to make it a whole lot interesting while adding to the excitement of fans and player alike.
Some of the tech includes:
Performance and tracking system
FIFA is betting big on technology and coaches of all 32 teams will be given Electronic Performance and Tracking System or EPTS.
EPTS is a tablet-based system which works with cameras and wearable technologies.
Each team’s coaching staff will be given three tablets which will provide player data in terms of passing, tackles and other aspects.
Biometrics and cashless payments
Also, with the aid of tech, fans travelling to Russia, will have an option of cashless shopping with their VISA cards at venues of the World Cup.
Visa will also provide POS terminals that will support payments through smartphones and smart watches.
Users can as a result pay quickly through biometric scans at the 2018 World Cup, without stressing out.
4K content and Virtual Reality (VR)
This is the first time in the history of World Cup that 4K content feed will be made available to broadcasters.
A host of broadcasters around the world will provide 4K Ultra High Definition content, to enhance the TV viewing experience.
Aside that, broadcasters will also provide VR feed to football fans.
Especially, BBC as it has a wider viewership.
Near Field Communication (NFC)
Thanks to Adidas, a technical innovation is coming to the match ball as well.
Adidas Telstar 18, the official ball for the World Cup, will come equipped with a NFC chip.
It’s located at the top of the ball, under the little wifi-esque symbol.
In operation, the NFC enabled device (smartphone) sends radio frequency signals that interact with the NFC tag (inserted inside the Telstar 18 ball).
The signal allows your phone to communicate with the tag.
Your phone will then receive the information from the tag, which will then open the Telstar 18 experience.