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How is engineering changing Football?

From smart balls to VAR - the world cup will be very different this year, thanks to engineering!

Welcome to Undercover Engineers – Access All Areas. We’ve teamed up with inspirational engineers from around the globe, who are all working to make the world a better place.

From Missions to Mars to technology exploring the deepest oceans, from nano technology, to the design of some of the largest structures on earth. Exciting new innovations in engineering are changing and shaping our world in some amazing ways.

Let’s take a look at how engineers are making football fairer and more competitive than ever.

Engineering and Football

timelapse photo of soccer player kicking ball

Have you ever watched a game of your favourite sport and thought your team deserved to win? Maybe it was a football goal from the other team that from your angle looked like it was offside. Or maybe the whistle blew just as a goal went in and you think they should have counted it!

No matter what the sport there are winners and losers – but how can we make sure referees and umpires make the right decisions?  How can we be sure the ball went over the line – or didn’t?  

With the World Cup this year it isn’t just the players and fans getting prepared, engineers have a massive role to play especially when it comes to creating and using technology that can make football fairer. 

With FIFA estimating 5 BILLION people will watch this World Cup this year and that 1 million people will travel to Qatar internationally  – all eyes will be on if this technology can deliver. 

Engineers have developed technology that can detect when a goal goes in and this technology is even more accurate than the human eye. 

In fact it’s used in football games all over the world.

From the ball used to VAR – technology is being used to make the beautiful game a fair game too. 

The World Cup ‘Smart Ball’

white and gray Adidas soccerball on lawn grass

Let’s start with the ball – after all you can’t have much of a match without it! The 2022 World Cup is just around the corner and the ball, made by Adidas, will provide connected ball technology in all 64 matches. 

The World Cup ‘smart ball’ has a sensor inside it which has been designed and built by engineers. 

The sensor means that the position of the ball can be tracked at all times. So that means a referee can check the ball has definitely crossed the goal line and the exact time it happens, the referee will get all that information immediately sent to a smart watch they are wearing. The technology is very accurate and instantaneous so it can help referees make quick and fair decisions.

Football engineers help with these sorts of decisions can also make technology to help referees know if the ball is off side.

Tracking Cameras in World Cup Stadiums

At the stadiums for the World Cup 2022, there are 12 tracking cameras in every stadium being used which can track the ball and players 50 times per second – nothing is getting past them! If a referee blinks and misses then you can bet the cameras know what happened.

Engineers have also improved the way decisions by cameras and computers are made – so when this technology is used in a game we will see exactly how the computer has made the decision so we can trust it’s accuracy. 

Plus this is a lot faster and more advanced than previous technology that’s been used so as fans we shouldn’t have to wait around for a decision to be made, which means more watching the game and less waiting for decisions!

And it’s not just during the match that technology can improve football. Technology is being increasingly used in training to make players better than ever.

How Leicester City used engineering to help win the Premier League

Cast your mind back to May 2016. Leicester City Football Club surprised everyone when they won the Premier League that year. The closest they’d been to that title was in 1929 when they’d been runners up – so for them to win the Premier League was an incredible feat.

Some of this victory was attributed to the Club’s use of data analysis technology. Data analysis is when you look at numbers like a player’s heart rates when they are running in a game to help understand how they can play better. The findings of data can make sure that training plans are tailored to the individual player. Leicester were ahead of the trend in using data to help improve players performances and many people speculated this helped lead to their incredible victory.  

You can listen to our interview with Michael Davis, a data analyst at Leicester City Football Club in the podcast.

Created with the support from The Institution of Engineering and Technology.

For more information visit The IET.

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