Technology in amateur football, a possible future?


VAR French Cup
The VAR in the Coupe de France from the round of 16. (Photo Philippe Le Brech)

The announcement of Arsène Wenger, director of world football development, caused a stir. Asked about VAR, video assistance for professional referees, he admitted to working on a simplified version of it. Explicitly directed at the lower divisions, this VAR could bring the technology into amateur football eventually.

But it is not the only instrument which is debated for its democratization on a much larger scale.

Analysis of a phenomenon which risks transforming all amateur fields within a few years.

Football and technology, a love story

Football has long benefited from technological advances. Whether it is with the players’ GPS trackers or the analyzes of matches by artificial intelligences. We can even mention clashes between robots and footballers as the porosity between football and technology is growing.

Naturally, football thus benefits from several instruments to facilitate the decision-making of the referees. The Goal Line Technology, the VAR, but also remote communications systems, so many instruments used every day in professional football.

The reason ? A “two-speed” football looming for FIFA, always concerned with intrinsic equality in sport. And with industrialization and research always more efficient, what was overpriced could enter the nails of a municipal stadium. But is it really for now?

Goal Line Technology, the zapped precursor?

First real instrument set up after numerous scandals, and in particular the famous strike by Frank Lampard during the eighth round of the 2010 World Cup, Goal Line Technology, however, does not appear in FIFA’s plans for the amateur world. The reason is simple: its price.

With seven high-speed cameras, a powerful computer to calculate the ball’s position, and the watch connected to the referee’s wrist, the technology is too expensive. For professional clubs in Europe, it is on average 200,000 euros per year and per club. A chasm that the clubs of the lower divisions cannot afford.

For amateur football, this is utopian.

But then, if Goal Line Technology is so expensive, how can Arsène Wenger speak of VAR for lower divisions and amateurs?

VAR, a new accessible system?

Of course, the director of world football development is not crazy. The VAR as it is at a staggering cost and could not satisfy the accounts of amateur clubs. While we do not yet know much about this project, the words of the former Arsenal coach are clear.

The system would include three cameras at different angles of the field. With a simple screen, we could therefore analyze any action taking place in the stadium. But the difficulty is immense.

Indeed, establishing a protocol for a set of disparate stadiums that do not necessarily look alike could be a real headache for FIFA. It is for this reason that caution is called for on the side of the highest authority of world football. For the moment, it is in the Coupe de France that the clubs of the lower divisions will discover the VAR.

Because, if the discourse on the democratization of technologies begins to make its hole, the bulk of the innovations are still to come on the professional grounds.

A training to be done entirely

Even beyond technologies, training will be necessary for users of such technology if it appears in all stages.

If, thanks to the Internet, online schools make it possible to learn about an innumerable variety of subjects, the protocol as well as the technique will have to be managed by the actors and the leaders of the amateur stadiums.

And we know that, of course, they have much less human resources than professional leagues or international bodies.

A problem which is added to the perpetual introduction of new technological aids to help the referee.

A legacy from the athlete to the civilian world

Like the motorsports which have innovated for the automobile industry, the novelties of a sport often radiate the practice of a wider public. The way is therefore cleared for football technologies, which, as they become more democratic, will be used more and more on amateur fields.

What is more, professional football is arming itself with more and more instruments to try to make the game more fluid while making it fairer.

The cost of new technologies is too high to equip amateur stadiums at the moment. It therefore remains a luxury reserved for professionals.

Thus, from the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, an automated offside detection technology could be implemented. It is in any case the wish of Arsène Wenger.

With this digital shift, amateur football will not be able to avoid being embarked on in the decades to come.

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