Football is broken – here's how tech can fix it
The 2019/20 football season will be the one when everybody realised that VAR technology (Video Assistant Referee) is actually a terrible idea, and is killing the game. But one British company thinks that technology still has a role to play in The Beautiful Game, and help it stay… beautiful. UK based health and safety experts Protecting.co.uk has produced a shopping list of tech ideas that can improve football, slash injuries and controversies, and bring back disillusioned fans.
"VAR has knocked the excitement out of football," said Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. "It's made it too clinical and kills the atmosphere stone dead. We want to bring that excitement back".
It's time for… retractable studs and actual armchair refs
In what is now clearly the greatest ever case of: "Be careful what you wish for", English football fans demanded video referees after John Terry's clear goal against Germany was ruled out in the 2010 World Cup.
But now the video referee is here, and it is sapping the game of any kind of excitement.
So we say chuck it all in the bin and come with us through our top ten list of how technology can help football.
- Retractable studs: Football studs are only any good when your feet are on the ground. Anywhere else, and they are a rogue weapon causing (we estimate) billions of pounds of losses to professional football clubs. Come on boot manufacturers – all you need is a sensor and a deftly-engineered solution based on aircraft undercarriage every time the boot is lifted off the ground. You can do this.
- Player's–eye view: A simple and largely painless brain implant as part of their professional contract means viewers can use Virtual Reality goggles to see exactly what their favourite star sees on the pitch. Experience the match as the players do, and if they forget to switch it off, the night club celebrations after.
- Diving Laser: One thing which is killing football are the divers who constantly try to cheat the referee into giving penalties. What football needs to root out these undesirables is laser-based technology (not dissimilar to cricket's 'snickometer') to determine whether there has been contact in the penalty area. If there has not, the laser is then whacked up to ten megawatts and the culprit never re-offends. Harsh, yet necessary.
- Multi-ball release: At a random point in the game, air-powered cannons fire up to twenty balls onto the pitch at once, which remain in play until they go off the pitch or score a goal. The end to boring 0-0 draws. Thank you technology!
- Armchair referee: Dumping VAR and the introduction of superfast mobile technology gives football the chance to let anybody referee a match. Doing away with the man in the middle altogether, every decision will be made by a majority decision straight from the handsets and remote controls of the public watching at home.
- Light-up football: A football loaded with shock-proof LED lights, so there's no excuse for not knowing where it is on the pitch. This idea will also save the day if there's a floodlight failure.
- Light-up players: You know when you're playing your favourite football-based computer game, the player you're currently controlling lights up? That, in real life.
- A very special guest star: With football ticketing completely computerised, it's no huge step to tweak the Laws of the Game to allow one supporter from each side to be randomly selected to take part in the game. Should Arsenal reach the cup final, there is a small chance that the Queen be selected, where - as Defender of the Faith – Her Majesty would slot comfortably into the Gunners' back four.
- Driverless team bus: Don't worry lads, it will be programmed to stop at a suitable fish and chip shop on the way home.
- The future of football: Let's take this to its logical conclusion. The game is played in a virtual stadium by two team of players clad in virtual reality body suits, watched at home by fans all on their sofas with virtual reality goggles; shouting encouragement, abuse and chants into the headset microphone; voting furiously on their referee handset. No controversies, no injuries, and – most of all – no excitement. Perfection.
Yes, we're proud that we've managed to use cutting-edge technology to kill The Beautiful Game TO DEATH.
On the other hand, those involved in the sport can use tech sensibly to improve player safety, make life easier for officials, and – most of all – give fans somewhere safe and fun to enjoy the match they love.
Hall said: "There are times when technology needs to take a step back. There's no way a computer can simulate the community and camaraderie of association football. Let's keep it that way."