When we talk of football, we can’t help but think of the FIFA World Cup, arguably the world’s most prestigious sports event. The last World Cup witnessed nearly 4 billion viewers, accounting for half of the current-day global population. And attendance at the 2022 FIFA event in Qatar is expected to be even higher.
Patents in Football
While you’re watching the upcoming final matches and rooting for your favorites, let’s take a look at some innovative technologies that have improved the sport. From the obvious to the obscure, here are some patented innovations that have helped improve both the game and player’s performance.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR)
VAR technology is being used at the FIFA World Cup to assist the on-pitch referee with goals, penalties, red cards, and cases of mistaken identity. The technology involves a referee who watches the match from a remote location with access to different camera angles and can communicate with the on-pitch referee to review the decisions.
Hawk-Eye Innovations owns the VAR technology patent (WO0141884) that was used at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The granted patent allows the company to profit from the invention by entering into licensing agreements with various sports bodies, such as FIFA, who pay a fee to access Hawk-Eye’s technology to improve the decision-making of their officials and facilitate a richer viewing experience.
Magnetic Field System
The magnetic field system is another innovation that has changed the face of football. In this patented system (EP 1 596 945 B1), the ball holds a sensor technology, and cables that create a magnetic field are placed around the goal. The sensor and the magnetic fields interact to allow the software to gauge the ball’s exact position and determine when a goal has been scored.
The previously used grass turf could not withstand vigorous football matches and unpredictable climatic conditions, while still being safe for the players. Today, hybrid turfs, which combine the excellent playing quality of natural grass with artificial turf’s properties, are used. For producing these turfs, a patented machine (EP 3 029 199 B1) is used for implanting individual artificial lawn threads into a natural lawn. The lawn retains the characteristics of a natural lawn while being more resistant due to the synthetic fibers.
Football Boots (Cleats)
Football boots is a huge industry, and the number of patent applications filed for these boots has increased steadily over the years. These applications can relate to anything from the shape of the boots to their color. One such patent is EU Design 003006287-0010 which illustrates the colorful design used on Magista 2 boot (Nike). The design produces a heat map depicting the areas of the foot which are more sensitive to touch and more likely to come into contact with the football.
Electronic Performance and Tracking Systems (EPTS)
Wearable and handheld technologies are becoming more common in many sports to help sportspersons get the most out of their training. These technologies have recently been approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to track the speed of players, ball positions, as well as physiological parameters such as heart rate, to help football coaches monitor and enhance team performance.
One such system has been developed by a renowned computing software products company that owns a US patent US7864215, for a method and device for generating wide image sequences. The patented technology is used in the company’s famed TRACAB system that can optically track players and the ball across the football ground.
Other Innovative Technologies in Football
Semi-automated offside technology
In July 2022, FIFA announced that semi-automated offside technology would be used at the Qatar World Cup, providing a support tool for video match officials and on-field officials to help them make quicker, more accurate, and replicable offside decisions.
FIFA Player App
FIFA has designed the FIFA Player App, based on input from professional players, in collaboration with FIFPRO, the global representative of professional footballers. This app will be used for the first time at Qatar World Cup and will give all players the opportunity to access individual player performance data immediately after each game.
Goal-line technology instantly determines whether the whole ball has crossed the goal line. Since its adoption in 2014, this technology has seen wide-scale adoption in football matches.
Football Data Ecosystem
FIFA’s football data ecosystem is a complex network of various data sources, data processors, and distribution layers that provide high-quality, consistent data to stakeholders. It is based on the FIFA Football Language, the blueprint for how FIFA analyzes football. The language breaks down each area of the game in detail, providing operational definitions and video examples to clearly define each action.
The systems and technologies described in this article are just a few of the patents in football which have taken the game to the next level. With the current pace of technological advancement, we can expect more innovative technologies to continue improving the game of football. Meanwhile, soccer aficionados can continue enjoying exciting football matches and try spotting innovations already implemented.
If you’d like to read more such interesting articles, you might want to check out our blog page.