Technology has changed many of the things in our lives. We now do much of our shopping from our sofa, we can get a pizza delivered to our home from our smartphones, and carry the entire world’s music catalogue in our pockets. Work is much easier too since we can create and edit documents and share them with the world at the press of a button.
Sport hasn’t escaped the technical revolution either, every major competition from tennis to Formula 1 has been changed by advancements in technology. This has created new ways to officiate the competitions and allow fans to follow the sport more closely.
Football is another sport that has affected by technological drivers, sparking a trend that doesn’t look like it will be slowing down any time soon.
Here are of the ways that technology is changing football.
Until the second half of the 20th century, watching a football game in the UK meant going to the stadium in person. But this all changed thanks to television, a piece of technology that has changed our lives far more than almost any other invention from the last 100 years.
Television has turned football into a multi-billion pound industry, with the English Premier League generating more than £1.5 billion each year just from domestic TV rights contracts.
Things are changing again though, with the EFL introducing a system known as iFollow. This “over-the-top” streaming service works in a similar way to Netflix of Amazon Prime Video, allowing fans to pay their club directly to get access to live streams of games. We’ve also seen this in other sports, with the NFL, Formula 1, and the NBA all having their own services.
These streaming services let fans watch games from anywhere, whether it be at home, work, or out and about. Meaning you can take football with you, no matter where you go. With the roll-out of 5G, video quality is also likely to improve on these services.
Until 1960, betting on football was mostly outlawed in the UK, though it was possible to play in “football pools”. After that, physical betting shops opened up, allowing fans to wager on their team ahead of each match.
However, things stepped up a gear with the advent of the internet, computers and smartphones. The latter made it possible to comfortably watch a game, either at the stadium, home, or elsewhere and bet on the game while it was being played.
It also meant that bettors could be better informed when making decisions on which team to back, thanks to football predictions that can be accessed from anywhere.
Today, betting has become a major part of the sport, particularly with fans that like to test their skills of predicting the outcome of several games with accumulator bets.
When football was first played in England, the sport didn’t have referees. Instead, both team captains were trusted to keep everyone in check. This worked fine until 1871 when two referees were introduced for FA Cup competitions to ensure fairness.
This system of refereeing (with a few tweaks over time) has worked great for more than 100 years, though there have always been difficult and controversial calls that have influenced games and tournaments. These were often caused by the ref or a linesman not getting a good view of what happened.
Today, technology is being used in the top tiers of many football leagues that can overcome this. It can be a little controversial as some fans believe it breaks up the flow of a game, but VAR and goal-line technology can provide more clarity on whether a foul has been committed or a goal scored.
These usually work with high-tech cameras that can be reviewed by experts to help the head referee make the right call.
As controversial as VAR is, it’s unlikely to go anywhere any time soon.
Despite being mostly out of view from fans, one of the biggest changes in recent years has been the use of technology in training. There’s all the high-tech medical equipment like heart rate monitors, oxygen saturation monitors and the like that are used to monitor physical fitness, but new devices are able to improve the technical elements of the sport.
During training sessions, players can be fitted with small GPS trackers that feed data back to a central computer or tablet that can display the position of each player. This can be used by the coaches and manager to improve formations and set plays.
High-speed cameras are also used to monitor and improve technique for penalties, corners, headers, and throw-ins. They allow players to review their own body positioning and movement so they can see for themselves what changes they need to make.