There are few sports where technology has been a bigger catalyst for change over the last 15-20 years than football – driving a seismic shift in attitudes towards coaching, nutrition, player physiology and health – particularly in England.
Gone are the days when the pre-match meal consisted of double pie and chips, all washed down with 10-12 pints of lager after the final whistle. The modern game is packed with cutting edge technology to ensure players stay at the peak of physical fitness for longer.
Likewise, the world of football coaching is moving away from the old-school tactics board as sophisticated analytics software and individual player monitors are now offering coaches and managers unprecedented and invaluable insight into player movements on the pitch.
One solution in this area is being provided by M7 Aerial, a Cheshire-based drone company specialising in aerial filming and aerial photography which is being used to offer coaches an overhead film of training sessions, thus offering a different perspective on player movement and formations.
The company was formed in 2014 by Mark Wynne, a close friend of former England international Michael Owen. Wynne initially used the drone system to capture aerial footage of Owen’s Manor House Stables in Malpas, Cheshire and, through Owen’s connections in the game, the system was put on trial at Dragon Park, the training centre for the Welsh national team. It has also been used by World Cup winner Thierry Henry to help him gain his coaching badges.
Managers predominantly view the game at pitch level and from the side. Although this allows coaches and managers to be very hands-on in their role – easily communicating with players and getting a feel for team fitness and morale – it is a fairly limited position in terms of getting an accurate view of the shape of the game. Many managers do occasionally view matches from higher up in the stands to broaden their viewpoint – which is more commonplace in rugby. However, drones can take this a step further by providing a perfect bird’s eye view and can record training sessions for post-analysis of player mistakes or positional errors, timing of runs and how space can be exploited.
The technology was also employed by former Everton manager Roberto Martinez at the club’s Finch Farm Academy to film the team’s tactical sessions from above. The footage is stored on Everton’s own memory cards so that the footage stays in the hands of the club rather than being accessed by any future opponent. M7 Aerial is also lending a helping hand to The New Saints Football Club in Wales.
Wynne has stated that the technology is available to clubs at all levels and the drones are flown safely by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) trained operators. In addition the company has also launched a sister company, M7virtua, which will allow players to wear 360° cameras to review spatial awareness during play.
Wynne is talking to other clubs including Manchester City, Liverpool and Swansea about using the system and is confident that it will eventually be a standard piece of kit at training grounds throughout the country.