In January 2020 we’ll have the first results for these technologies that – up until now – have yet to face third-party evaluations. To be able to establish a common measurement, it was necessary to carry out the tests in the same place and at the same time. Johsan Billingham, Research Manager of FIFA’s Technology & Innovation Department, responsible for the certification event and test procedure pointed out: “We want to provide a transparent assessment of each system so that the end-user, whether that is a team, a member association or a competition organiser, can make an informed decision when selecting their provider”.
For FC Barcelona, innovations in this field are important because they will help to optimise the time invested by analysts in obtaining information on everything that takes place during a match. The club currently has automatised reports obtained through tactical video. Thanks to the algorithms used in processing the information on each player’s position at any given moment, we can obtain the following key data: to what extent the team is in danger, how often lines are crossed in certain circumstances, whether there are problems in playing the ball out, etc.
The goal is for the manager to be able to consult this information as quickly as possible. Now, all of this data can be linked to videos. If the coach is interested in the peak marked out by a dangerous curve, he has to access the video of that play. It’s all about streamlining, about being able to access a full data report as soon as a match has finished – and at some point in the future – in real-time. We are entering a new horizon where computerised analytics can provide managers with guidance, and help to make decisions as the match unfolds.
In terms of future technology, the club has its eyes on the area of optical tracking – the information that makes it possible to track the position of the ball. GPS can show us all sorts of information, but if the position of the ball is missing from the picture, the data we get from GPS remains decontextualised. Right now, the immediacy and the quality of the data have room for improvement. Normally GPS data has to be processed after the match with help from the video to improve it. Once we are able to determine the position of the ball, we will be facing a revolution, not just in terms of technology, but at the tactical and strategic level as well.
In the area of sports medicine, these advancements will directly impact our ability to process this big data related to players’ workload, as well as their levels of fatigue. This information will help managers regulate and rotate squads based on increasingly less subjective and more empirical and accurate information.
Billingham remarked that more and more stakeholders from fans to managers are interested in receiving accurate and reliable statistics describing what is happening on the pitch during and after the game. The devices can also be used for more abstract concepts such as better understanding the optimal pitch position for referees to be in to improve their decision making.
On the Camp Nou pitch, a 30×30 metre zone was set up with ten cameras on each side. Players from INEF Catalonia inside this zone wore markers on their shoulders, hips and lower back to measure their body position and orientation. The exercises consisted of completing a physical circuit involving walking, jogging and sprinting in different directions, as well as changes of direction and accelerations. They also played a two-on-two and five-on-five with the football. As well as a series of maximal sprints to collect high-velocity data.