For what seems an eternity, professionals and fans in the Premier League have been calling for more technology to be brought into the game. 2013 was the year of goal-line technology and 2014 was the year of vanishing spray – both proving highly valuable for players and referees alike. So what could be next?
Real-time data from wearable tech.
For years, football players have worn lightweight tracking devices under skintight vests to monitor an individual player’s performance, from heart rate to speed to distance. However, authorities only allow this data to be analysed after the match has finished – not during.
But what if data from these wearables could be looked at in real-time, whilst the match was being played? Would this change the Premier League that we know and love for the worse, or would it change it for the better?
The possible benefits of real-time wearable tech data
1. Improve tactical decisions during matches
Although post-match data from wearable tracking devices is highly valuable, having to wait till the game has finished to get ahold of this information prevents managers and coaches from immediately acting upon it.
If this data could be provided in real-time in the middle of the game, managers could make instant tactical changes that could swing the game. For example, a manager could identify a player showing fatigue and so could substitute him. Or utilising a heatmap of player movement, coaches could change formation immediately – a potential ‘game-changer’.
2. Reduce injury during matches
Last season, Leicester City took the footballing world by storm by becoming champions of the Premier League. Many commentators have accounted this historical victory to their surprisingly low number of injuries. Roughly halfway through the season, Leicester City’s players had only missed 184 days through injury. In contrast, Manchester City’s players had missed 769 and Liverpool 965.
So why did Leicester players suffer so few injuries? Many give credit to wearable tech. During training, all Leicester players wore tracking devices that could help identify potential injuries before they struck. For example Catapult’s wearables can identify the balance of a player when he jumps and lands which can indicate muscular imbalance that could lead to injury.
So imagine if this data could also be used in real-time in competitive matches. Rather than waiting for an injury to occur on the field, managers could instantly see a player was at risk of injury and take him off before he finds himself sitting on the sidelines for months.
3. Increase fan engagement
Every team wants their fans to be involved in the game as much as possible – and real-time data could help to increase this. In the NFL currently, all players wear tracking devices to allow stadiums to broadcast data about the player to the spectators during the game, such as player speeds, runs, exertion and fatigue.
If this could be brought to the Premier League, there is no knowing how much more fans would engage with the play, and how much more emotional tension it would add.
4. Take betting to another level
The UK’s online football betting industry is undoubtedly huge. From April 2014 to November 2015, its revenue stood at £168m as companies offered countless markets, bets and odds. However, if real-time wearable data was released and made available to betting companies, these sites could introduce so many more betting options to the customer.
No more bets on who you think will score next – what about betting on how far Mesut Ozil will run in 90 minutes or how quickly Jamie Vardy will sprint?
With real-time data providing such insights for managers, officials and fans alike, the Premier League could clearly benefit greatly if real-time data from wearable tech in matches was made available.
However, as with much conversation surrounding data, there are concerns too. Some fans may dislike the idea of turning football into a game of pure statistics – the chance nature of football is arguably what makes it great. As for the players, it places even more pressure on them to perform and could even create issues concerning data privacy.
The Premier League has been traditionally slow to introduce technological developments to the game, so it is unlikely that this update will happen overnight. However, with such benefits for all involved, perhaps it won’t be too long until wearable real-time data in competitive matches is released. Watch this space…
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