The FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is making use of new computer and communication technology developed by researchers at Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) during the Under 17 World Cup held in Mexico and the 2011 Women’s World Cup held in Germany.
The Madrid university’s researchers are working on improvements in referee training in conjunction with the FIFA. The new technologies that they have developed as part of this research project are now being put into practice in the Under-17 World Cup, which will be played through July 10 in Mexico, and in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, which will take place in Germany from June 26 through July 17.
The objective of this work is to make advances in research and in the development of new technologies, methodologies and teaching materials that will be used to prepare the governing body of world football’s referees. This UC3M working group will spend over one month in Mexico and Germany testing and using a set of technological tools and training materials that have been developed over the past five years through this research project and in collaboration with FIFA’s department of football referees.
There are two phases to this project, which has been carried out by scientists from the TECMERIN research group at UC3M. The first phase took place previous to the beginning of the championship and was carried out for a period of between seven and ten days just before its start; the second phase took place during the championship itself. During the first phase, the referees who attended participated in a series of technical and physical preparation activities designed to get them into the best condition possible for the beginning of the championship. The researchers provided the technical and physical instructors with different visual and interactive information and communication technologies (TIC) to be used in classes and practice sessions, both on and off the playing field.
Off the field, the goal is for referees and assistant referees to improve their technical knowledge and to practice making decisions involving interpretations of the Rules of the Game aided by the applications developed by the researchers. In order to improve the skills with regard to knowledge and interpretation of the Rules of the Game, the instructors use the Interactive Video Test (Armenteros & Benítez, 2010), which includes a video with over 100 plays selected from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa; an interactive Rules of the Game Trivial Pursuit competition (Armenteros, et al., 2010) with more than 1.500 questions with different levels of difficulty; and interactive multimedia Rules of the Game materials, with an exhaustive selection of support material, including video graphic material, 2D and 3D animations, as well as self-evaluation material. “The use of the Interactive Videotext and the Interactive Trivial Pursuit game foments learning and aids in the use of methodologies in which there is a high level of participation by the referees, generating a very positive response to the learning experience”, explains Professor Manuel Armenteros, of the UC3M Journalism and Audiovisual Communication Department.
On the playing field, the goal is for the referees and assistant referees to improve their decision-making by means of observation of their actions after the fact, using video. This group of researchers from the Audiovisual Communication area use video to register and reproduce in real time decisions that the referees make in different types of exercises that are carried out on the field, especially those which have been worked on the least during their training, such as offside exercises. The equipment used is a high definition camera, a laptop computer equipped with a movement capturing application and various output devices to allow the exercise to be observed and the results visualized immediately, so that feedback can be instantaneous, permitting the referee to correct or confirm his decisions. This methodology, which was used by a group of researchers from the University of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria in preparation for the World Cup in South Africa, is currently being used and improved with new imaging techniques such as High Definition and slow motion.
During the championship, this group of researchers is working with FIFA analysts on a daily basis to capture images from international broadcasting centers that show all of the important referee situations that may have occurred over the course of a game; they then prepare a daily brief with the video clips, in order to correct or confirm the decision-making in the World Cup games. In order to gather and prepare all of this material, the researchers have developed an interactive tool called “Game Analysis”, which allows them to register the data from the analysis of the plays in order and to later quickly and easily integrate those analyses into the video material, thus speed up the process of producing and presenting captured video material.