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EPL teams filling arenas with own cameras before VAR arrives

February 7, 2019
FILE - In this Friday, June 22, 2018 file photo, referee Matt Conger from New Zealand watches the Video Assistant Referee system, known as VAR during the group D match between Nigeria and Iceland at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd, Russia. Women’s World Cup referees are undergoing training with VARs over the next two weeks, The Associated Press has learned, paving the way for the FIFA Council to approve the use of video reviews at this year’s tournament in France. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

LONDON (AP) — In his irritation at losing to Tottenham last month, Maurizio Sarri challenged an offside ruling by producing evidence from Chelsea’s own camera angles.

Lines were drawn across the footage, which was produced during the post-match interview to cast doubt on the official video assistant referee ruling on Harry Kane’s winner in the English League Cup semifinal first leg. The offside markings were rudimentary and disputed by the refereeing body.

But it showed how even with the advent of VAR — used only in some League Cup and FA Cup matches in England — clubs will seek to challenge the official technology deployed by competition organizers to check decision-making.

Now, even more technology will be at the disposal of some clubs — and fans — from next month, before VAR’s debut in the Premier League next season.

Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City have signed deals with Intel to bring its True View system to stadiums. Using 38 5K ultra-high-definition cameras, with no link to the main broadcast feeds using the VARs, 360-degree replays will be recreated from any angle.

Intel says the video recreations of incidents will give pundits and fans a new “insight into the tactics and decisions made by players.”

Inevitably, those by referees, too.

The Premier League hopes footage won’t be used retrospectively to challenge their decisions, especially as the system isn’t calibrated for refereeing purposes.

But it will give new angles on dives, tackles, handballs, and offside. Not just for fans to share on social media to moan about calls, but also for coaches to replay key moments from their chosen angles.

What clubs want to talk about publicly is how the technology provides a fresh route to engaging with fans. The footage will also be an additional analytics tool for teams like Arsenal, which is trying to move back into the top four Champions League qualification places.

“From a technical side, our playing staff have access to different viewing technology,” Arsenal commercial director Peter Silverstone told The Associated Press. “I’m sure when they see this they will use and want access to this ... because we’ll have all the content and we’ll be editing accordingly. But from an officiating perspective, that’s not our position or focus at the minute.”

Intel’s True View allows a moment in a game to be frozen to view in 3D from the eyes of anyone on the pitch, and a virtual wall can be inserted to make it clear where players are positioned.

“The key element is allowing our fans to step into the shoes of their favorite players or their favorite pieces of action and engage with that content,” Silverstone said.

“You need to be able to engage with those fans because football is not a 90-minute conversation. It’s a conversation that goes on for a whole week until the next game.”

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