That “grand stretch in the evening” has turned inside-out which means Premier League football is on the way back. 2017 is a big year too as it marks 25 years of the Premier League, founded in 1992. Which got me thinking. The pitches might be the same size and the transfer fees bigger, but how much has Premier League technology and football’s technology, in general, has changed over the years?
There are some subtle things you might not notice in football. For example, did you know a linesman only covers one and one side of the pitch?
No linesman is complete without their flag. There are even some very strict rules on how the flag should be held when running. Back when the Premier League was created, flags were used to catch the attention of the ref and signal, semaphore style, as to what the problem was. Today, a linesman’s flag costs over €250 a pop. Why? because they can buzz the referee to notify them of an event in the game. While it’s pricey, it’s not as hilarious as the solution they found to wire up fourth officials.
When the extra officials got added behind the goals, they needed the same tech as linesmen without the flag. The solution was simple – the magic wand. A great example of “if it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid”. I could be wrong, but surely it’s just a typical flag without the flag right?
Radios For The Officials
While the technology in flags is less than impressive, radios are very useful. The main limitation of flag signals was an inability to provide in-depth details of problems. Now, all major officials in Premier League games can communicate with each other. Well, they can communicate if they want to that is:
Video Assistant Referees
Many said it would never happen, but the success of having a video referee in rugby has finally spilt over into football. Video Assistant Referees (VARs) were tested out at the 2017 Confederations Cup, receiving mixed reviews.
Some believe it breaks up the play too much, but at the same time, it can mean the difference between winning and losing. In time, TV editors will have cut backs to studio and analysis for the breaks and they’ll barely be noticeable. In the stadium, there’ll be more mascots and problem solved.
Here’s how the system works:
Pitch-Side Advertising and Virtual Advertising
One of the more recent and coolest innovations in football would be almost impossible for you to spot. Advertising, which started out with simple boards pitch-side, is a massive source of revenue for clubs. To fit more advertisers in, these were upgraded to rolling ads and eventually LED ad boards. What you might not have noticed was the next cool step.
Football, Premier League football in particular, has attracted a global following. As you can imagine, Thai Liverpool supporters have little interest in what Barclay Bank offer in England. Virtual Advertising allows regional-based advertising for TV viewers. Seriously, unless you see this working you wouldn’t believe it.
Localised advertising is probably less jarring for international viewers but it also means more revenue for clubs. Which, going by the price of Neymar, is being spent responsibly.
Goal Line Technology
Goal Line Technology is, of course, the best-known innovation in football over the years. Seven hi-speed cameras stare at each goal to paint a digital 3D picture which knows where the football is at all times. Within a second of the ball crossing the goal line, the system sends a signal to the referee’s watch to inform them of a goal. It takes a lot of calibrating and isn’t foolproof, but it’s pretty impressive none-the-less.
The Goal Decision Watch, worn by the referee and linked to the Goal Line Technology, is the recognisable orange watch on the ref’s wrist:
Raging this story was before the Premier League. Back in the 1989/90 season referee David Elleray was mic’d up for a game between Arsenal and Millwall. The results were hilarious: