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Some of the biggest changes that technology has brought to football

Some of the biggest changes that technology has brought about in football has been through the explosion in stats and data around the game.

soccer ball on field
Image: Unsplash

It is safe to say that technology has revolutionized life as we know it over the last two decades or so. There is probably no facet of our lives that has been left untouched by the advance of computers and technology, and we are all the better for it. From smartphones to AI-assisted driving, from robots doing surgery to reusable rockets and drone ships, the world has been completely changed through technology.

Of course, the world of sports has not been unaffected by this, and we have seen a slow but gradual acceptance of the various benefits that integrating tech solutions into the sports that we love, and play can bring. Football has been one of the beneficiaries as well, with several innovations being introduced which have improved the sport, both on the field as well as for fans in the stadium and those watching at home.

Some of the biggest changes that technology has brought about in football has been through the explosion in stats and data around the game. Even about a decade ago, it would be unthinkable to have the plethora of data and numbers around individual matches, players and teams available to casual fans, let alone the huge amounts of specialized data that teams themselves receive nowadays in order to improve their performance in training, their nutrition, their injury recovery, and their matchday performance.

Firms like Opta and Statsbomb have completely changed the way in which fans use and interact with data in football today, with terms like ‘expected goals’ becoming part of standard football vocabulary. This has found its way into some of the associated services as well – for example, anyone joining bet365 today with a view to placing bets on football will have access to a huge number of stats and datapoints to allow them to make as informed a choice as possible. This has also influenced the way in which odds are priced in the first place, with a lot more information available to try and make those odds as realistic and accurate as possible.

Coming back to the game itself, players now have access to personalized stats through their clubs’ analytics departments, helping them see the strengths and weaknesses in their game and thus where they need to work on. Further, injury recovery has improved as a science by leaps and bounds as well, with nutrition experts delivering carefully-calibrated treatments, and also being able to track and advise on food intake and choices which will help the most towards an efficient and quick recovery.

This applies not just to injury recovery, but in general regarding the players’ diet. Another major advancement has been the use of cryotherapy for recovery between matches. Cryotherapy is a treatment method, where the body is exposed to liquid nitrogen at a temperature of about -135 degrees Celsius, in a specialized cryotherapy body chamber.

This is done just for a few minutes, but that duration is enough to stimulate increased blood flow and reduce inflammation and provide instant pain relief as well. Some of the leading footballers in the world, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, have been proponents of this technology for some time now, and it just goes to show how effective technology can be in improving all aspects of sporting performance.

On the pitch, one of the biggest interventions by technology has been the introduction of Video Assistant Referees, or VAR. While there have been teething problems with its implementation, the broad benefits of VAR cannot be denied, as they allow for marginal calls to be decided accurately, and also provide help to the on-pitch referee in terms of events he may have missed on the field.

VAR is definitely here to stay, even if certain modifications to the rules of football may be needed, and while there are some concerns that it breaks up the flow of football, that is a far better outcome than having potentially game-changing decisions made incorrectly, as has been the case too often in the past.

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