Sports are one of the most popular forms of entertainment for the masses, therefore, as technological innovations continue to arrive at lightning pace, it’s hardly surprising the games we love are also embracing the latest technological advances. Some are intended to improve fairness and transparency, while others are aimed at feeding our desire for data, analyzing every movement that athletes make.
VAR in the Leading Soccer Competitions
Aimed at reducing the number of controversial refereeing decisions in soccer, it’s perhaps fair to say that Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) has been met with a mixed reaction. The use of technology in other walks of life is widely accepted, although in soccer, the implementation of VAR has brought widespread debate amongst fans of the sport.
The concept was introduced to ensure that whenever needed, match referees can consult video replays of any incidents during play. Given the speed of soccer and the need for accuracy, it’s not uncommon to find that referees increasingly rely on replays to check their decisions. This has inevitably led to lengthy pauses during games, while plays are reviewed before a referee makes his or her final decision.
Liverpool are priced +225 betting odds to win the Premier League again this season, although as they prepare to defend their crown, they will hope to attract a little less attention from VAR conspiracy theorists. Some fans of other teams regularly claimed they received favorable decisions more frequently, however, statistics proved that refereeing decisions were very balanced overall using the new technology.
Nevertheless, having only been in widespread use for the last couple of years, whether it’s in top-level UEFA competitions throughout Europe or the successful implementation demonstrated by the Major League Soccer in North America; the game itself is gradually adapting and improving the use of this technology.
Puck & Player Tracking in the NHL
The 2020-21 season will become the first in which the NHL fully deploys Puck and Player Tracking technology. The original plan was to have the new systems in place at all 31 NHL arenas by September 2019, ready for the 2019-20 season. But the league changing technology partners led to delays.
Successful trials at recent All-Star games have already given viewers a taste of what to expect, with the systems having taken several years to design and perfect. Indeed, putting electronics in an ice hockey puck was challenging to design, given the beating those things take and the temperatures on the ice itself.
According to the original NHL announcement in 2019, there will be up to 16 antennae placed above the rinks at arenas, monitoring every inch of the ice. The pucks will feature real-time tracking at a rate of 2,000 times per second, providing laser accuracy when following movement, while players will also wear monitors within their uniforms, providing data for all their actions.
Not only does this huge amount of data bring head coaches and GMs a host of new analytics information, viewers at home and at arenas can also follow the data with live apps via their mobile devices. Broadcasters will also have access to all this data, which could revolutionize how they present live games, while sportsbooks will be able to offer more betting markets than ever before.
The Human Touch
No matter how much new technology our favorite sports implement, the central focus of our attention should always be the individual athletes and competing teams. That remains the biggest challenge as we plunge into an era where everything is scrutinized and analyzed. What we can’t forget is that while data is important, human instincts and talents are sometimes unquantifiable, which is perhaps the very essence of sport itself.
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