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Goal 9

Harness technology in football ­

3 min. reading time

Harness technology in football

FIFA followed parallel pathways in using technology for the benefit of the whole football community in 2020.
Enhancing the implementation of existing tools and systems continues to reshape the way that the sport is both presented and perceived, also unlocking greater efficiency for football’s administration.
Simultaneously, FIFA’s role has been to facilitate the cost-effectiveness of those necessary tools and to ensure that they are accessible globally to mark a uniform improvement of the football experience around the world.

Enhance VAR technology

FIFA established a Working Group for Innovation Excellence comprising 14 competition organisers experienced in using video assistant referee (VAR) technology, with the aim of coordinating the next developments of the system. 

FIFA’s intention to make VAR technology accessible to all member associations (MAs) was advanced by recommendations from the working group on the next steps to implement VAR “light”, with the concept being presented to FIFA and The IFAB in December 2020. 

Enhanced VAR, including semi-automated offside technology, was tested live at the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™. FIFA has also opened dialogue with different technology providers on new solutions for an improved visualisation of close offside incidents. 

With management of the Implementation Assistance and Approval Programme (IAAP) transferred from The IFAB to FIFA, existing IAAP requirements have been adapted to improve the effectiveness of VAR implementation. In addition, FIFA is developing VAR documents and processes to share knowledge, especially to support competition organisers who are implementing VAR for the first time. 

In 2020, 38 VAR education online courses took place in which MAs were trained and supported on the education of video and match officials.

On the field, FIFA appointed female match officials to referee matches in a senior men’s tournament for the first time, as Edina Alves Batista, Neuza Back and Mariana de Almeida officiated at the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020.

Explore new technologies that can positively impact the game

With technology an integral part of football and wider society, FIFA continues to explore emerging technologies that have the potential to positively impact the game. 

Feedback from MA technical directors, professional players (via FIFPRO) and fans was gathered to understand their views on the need for technological improvements in football. In partnership with leading universities and the industry, FIFA began to explore and test the potential of emerging technologies in football, such as artificial intelligence, sensor technology and blockchain applications. 

The FIFA Innovation Programme was launched to help deal with innovative products that enter the market but are not ready or eligible for use in football. In terms of testing innovations that will advance the quality of the football experience, a memorandum of understanding was signed with Chinese club Dalian PFC in December 2020 for the establishment of a football technology innovation hub at Dalian’s academy, in close collaboration with FIFA Partner Wanda.

Leverage technologies to improve the experience of football fans

The FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 provided FIFA with an opportunity to test potential in-stadium fan experience enhancements via an improved mobile app prototype that included live VAR footage during referee reviews, video highlights and key match moments via different cameras, and the use of augmented reality to receive additional match insights. 

FIFA is also exploring how emerging technologies can help to merge real football with eFootball, and provide new services such as connected fitness, wellbeing, health and education, digital memorabilia and the virtual football experiences, as well as interactive and gamified fan and player experiences.

Spread football technologies globally

Supporting access to technology for all MAs, the implementation of a new quality category (“Basic”) broadened FIFA standards to balance the affordability of products with their cost efficiency and durability. 

The next development steps for VAR “light” operations were presented at The IFAB’s Annual Business Meeting in 2020 based on tests that had already seen the total number of competitions using VAR grow to 106 worldwide. 

The FIFA Football Data Ecosystem, including an in-house football data platform which gives access to performance data to participating teams and other internal and external stakeholders, was launched at the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 in February 2021.