Posts with «soccer» label

FIFA will test limb-tracking offside tech at the Arab Cup

FIFA is building on the video assistant referee (VAR) technology that's playing an increasingly important role in soccer. At this year's edition of the Arab Cup, which starts on Tuesday, the organisation will test tech designed to help officials assess whether players are offside, marking the most important trial of the system to date.

The offside rule is supposed to prevent players from lingering too close to the opponent's goal. In a nutshell, if an attacking team plays the ball forward when a teammate is ahead of both the ball and the second-to-last defender (including the goalkeeper), that's a foul. In the 2020-21 English Premier League season, 32 goals were ruled out for offside after VAR review.

Semi-automated offside technology explained ahead of FIFA Arab Cup. Pierluigi Collina and Johannes Holzmüller explain the advancement of the tests to date. This technology will be tested at the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ #FIFArabCup#FootballTechnology


— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) November 29, 2021

The semi-automated offside system collects up to 29 data points 50 times per second for each player, according to the BBC. Between 10 and 12 cameras will be installed under the roof of each stadium. The system will use limb-tracking data to calculate the offside line at the moment the ball is played (i.e. the "kick point"). If it detects an offside offence, it will alert a replay operator, who can review the incident almost in real-time.

“The replay operator then has the opportunity to show it immediately to the VAR,” Johannes Holzmüller, FIFA's football technology and innovation director, said. “At the FIFA Arab Cup, the Assistant VAR, at a dedicated offside station, can immediately validate and confirm the information.” The VAR can then tell the match referee about the decision.

The system could catch offside fouls faster than the current VAR setup, helping games to flow more smoothly. All going well, the tech could be used at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The system has been trialed in England, Spain and Germany. There were plans to test it more broadly last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those.

“Technology is very important and useful in both the pre-match preparation and the decision-making process during matches,” FIFA's chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina said. “In an offside incident, the decision is made after having analysed not only the players’ position but also, their involvement in the move. Technology – today or tomorrow – can draw a line but the assessment of an interference with play or with an opponent remains in the referee’s hands.”

NBC's six-year Premier League deal will keep some matches on Peacock

You'll likely have to keep using Peacock if you want to stream Premier League games. As Bloombergnotes, NBCUniversal has signed a six-year deal keeping it as the Premier League's official US broadcast partner. The arrangement gives NBC Sports access to all 380 matches each season until 2028. The pact also gives NBC sole rights for Spanish language coverage.

The two didn't say how this would affect Peacock's coverage. However, the Premier League highlighted Peacock as a platform that could reach "every home" with internet access. NBC Sports became the Premier League's American partner in 2013 and will have its existing agreement until May 2022.

There's a real chance Peacock will continue streaming many (though not all) of those games. Bloomberg pointed out that Premier League matches have been one of the few reliable sources of viewers for the fledgling service — the renewed deal could keep them watching and out of the hands of rivals like ESPN, which made a bid for Premier League rights. This could also drive free Peacock users to the Premium tiers currently needed to watch the league's games online.

The extension won't thrill you if you were looking for more ways to stream the exploits of Chelsea, Liverpool and other top-flight teams. However, it at least provides some consistency if you were already a Peacock user or happy to watch on Comcast's various other platforms.

Paramount+ expands its soccer lineup with Women's Super League matches

Paramount+ is bolstering its soccer bonafides with the addition of another notable league. CBS Sports will be the exclusive US rights holder for the Barclays FA Women’s Super League (WSL) in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons, with 57 matches airing across Paramount+ and CBS Sports Network each season. Most matches will stream on Paramount+, but some will air exclusively on CBS Sports Network. 

The WSL, which currently airs on NBC platforms in the US, features 12 teams and it's the highest level of women's soccer in England. American soccer fans will surely recognize some players, including current USWNT member Tobin Heath, who plays for Arsenal. Recently retired USWNT legend Carli Lloyd spent some time on loan at Manchester City a few years back.

The WSL complements the existing plethora of soccer coverage on Paramount+, which includes the National Women's Soccer League, The Women's Cup and UEFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers. Paramount+ also streams games from the UEFA Champions League, CONCACAF national team competitions, Italy’s Serie A, Scotland's Premiership and much more.

Paramount+ now streams more than 2,000 live games a year. Meanwhile, T-Mobile subscribers can currently snag a year of access to the platform at no extra cost.

Konami is refunding DLC purchases after disastrous 'eFootball' launch

Last month, Konami dropped Pro Evolution Soccer in favor of the new free-to-play eFootball franchise with the promise of decent gameplay on the cheap. Unfortunately, the launch was nothing short of woeful, with bad player models, numerous glitches and an uproar over a $40 DLC that couldn't even be redeemed until a big version 1.0 update originally scheduled for this month.

Now, Konami is saying that this update is being pushed way back to spring of 2022. As such, it's refunding players who pulled the trigger on that DLC and forcing them to reinstall the game. "If you have pre-ordered the Premium Player Pack and wish to continue to play eFootball 2022, you will need to re-download the core game after the pre-order has been cancelled. We apologize for the inconvenience," the company wrote.


To make the game more usable in the near term, Konami released an update (v0.9.1) "to fix numerous bugs sequentially on each platform starting today (November 5th)," it wrote. Left unsaid there is the severity of the glitches, which make for some pretty cringe reading. Choice ones include "the referee may be shown as being trapped on the surface of the pitch," "pitch grass is not shown three-dimensionally," and "players may get caught up in the goal net when performing a goal celebration close to the goal." 

It's hard to be optimistic given the issues Konami has had with its football games, but the company did buy itself some more time. We now have to wait until spring 2022 to see if it can do anything to turn eFootball around.

'Sociable Soccer' comes to PC and consoles in spring 2022

It took several years, but the Sensible Soccer sequel is finally close to launching on PCs and consoles. Tower Studios and KPL have revealed that Sociable Soccer will reach PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox Series X/S and Steam in the second quarter (aka spring) of 2022. The developer isn't yet ready to show the game in action, but it's promising improved gameplay, sharper graphics and better matchmaking than the Apple Arcade version you see here.

If you bought the Early Access release on Steam in 2017, you won't have to pay again. Tower is promising a new code when Sociable Soccer is available through Valve's store.

As you'd expect, Sociable Soccer is practically the antithesis of 'realistic' soccer games like FIFA 22. It's meant to be fast, easy to grasp and whimsical. You can send emojis to your rival, for starters. It won't appeal to diehards who demand real teams and players, but it might fit the bill if you're looking for a quick footie fix.

Debt-laden FC Barcelona begins selling NFTs

FC Barcelona, one of football’s biggest clubs, is auctioning off NFTs “based on some of the club’s historic moments.” Details are scarce for now, but it appears as if the club will allow fans to bid on clips of highlights in a style similar to that of NBA Top Shot. The transactions will take place through Ownix, a new Ethereum-based marketplace which will offer auctions for digital trinkets in a variety of categories. The company says that the Barcelona NFTs will be selected by a “special joint committee” and then minted, first as unique one-off auctions, and then later as a broader limited edition or collection. Ownix, which is emerging from stealth with this announcement, currently has a fairly limited selection of items to purchase, including some Squid Game and Batman-themed fan art, plus whatever the hell this is

Barcelona’s decision to begin selling NFTs may have been prompted by the debt crisis the club is currently in, with debts reported around $1.56 billion this summer. The club’s previous leadership is accused of reckless spending on a number of players on high wages that have subsequently underperformed. This summer, the club was forced into a fire sale and, due to rules on how big its wage bill could be, was unable to retain Lionel Messi, one of the world’s most successful players. That NFTs are, essentially, the definition of money for old rope, means that it's the sort of financial opportunity a club like Barcelona are incapable of turning down right now. 

The club isn't alone in leaping feet-first into the cryptocurrency mire, with many major names offering "Fan Tokens" through Socios. That company offers clubs the ability to mint their own coins and use it to run engagement schemes with their fans. But, unlike real socios — the Spanish word for the members who own a real ownership stake in their club — these tokens will only allow you to take part in polls set out by the club's leadership, enter competitions, and so on. But despite the obvious limitations, Socios is already making money, and when France's Paris Sant-Germain signed Lionel Messi, part of his "welcome package" was a bundle of these tokens, believed to be worth (at the time) up to $34 million.

Fox Sports will air a dedicated Carli Lloyd stream for her final USWNT match

On Tuesday, October 26th, Carli Lloyd will play her final game as part of the US women’s national soccer team when it takes on South Korea in a friendly match. In honor of the event, Fox Sports will stream a dedicated “CarliCam” that will follow Lloyd throughout the contest. You’ll be able to watch the game from that vantage point through the Fox Sports app, as well as the network's Facebook and YouTube accounts. It will also air the first 10 minutes of the match on Twitter.

Back in August, Lloyd announced she would retire from professional soccer by the end of the year. Over her 17-year career, she has been one of the most dominant players in the sport. She scored the gold medal-winning goals in both the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2015 and 2016, she was named the FIFA Player of the Year. More recently, she helped Team USA secure the bronze medal at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo with a pair of goals in a match that ended with a four-three score. While Tuesday will mark Lloyd’s final game with Team USA, she’ll play out the remainder of the NSWL season with Gotham FC before finally hanging up her jersey.

FIFA isn't thrilled with EA's dominance of soccer games

Do you lament EA's dominance of soccer (aka football) games due to its licensing advantages? So does FIFA, apparently. Eurogamernotes that FIFA has issued a statement insisting that soccer gaming and eSports should have more than one party "controlling and exploiting all rights" — a not-so-subtle reference to EA. Accordingly, FIFA is talking to developers, investors and other groups to "widen" its gaming and eSports options.

The organization added this would help "maximize all future opportunities." It also reiterated its commitment to running eSports tournaments under its FIFAe brand.

The statement comes at a crucial moment for both EA and FIFA. EA's current licensing deal expires after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and New York Timessources claim talks have stalled between the two sides. FIFA reportedly wants more than double its current cut from EA (more than $1 billion over four years) while also limiting EA's rights to keep it to video games. EA, meanwhile, is considering new names for its soccer games while supposedly exploring new concepts like arena-based tournaments, NFTs and even highlights for real-world games.

A decision is expected by the end of 2021, according to The Times, but EA is hedging its bets by registering an "EA Sports FC" trademark. EA and FIFA have declined to comment on the talks.

In that context, FIFA's statement may serve as a warning shot — see things our way or miss out on a valuable licensing agreement. While EA's existing clout might help a non-licensed game sell, there's little doubt a generic game would lose players hoping to control Mbappé or Messi in real clubs. EA won't necessarily bow to FIFA as a result. It might, however, be more aware of what's at stake if deal negotiations fall apart.

The soccer team co-owned by Ryan Reynolds is coming to FIFA 22

Wrexham AFC is a non-league club in the fifth tier of the English soccer pyramid (the much-more-famous Premier League is at the top), which means it’s an unlikely candidate to feature in a FIFA game. Fortunately for Wrexham, it’s not just any club, but a (technically Welsh) team co-owned by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney — which is why it’ll now feature in FIFA 22

Today, “Rest of World”. Tomorrow… the world?

— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) September 12, 2021

Wrexham, based on Wales but playing in England's National football league, will appear in Kick Off mode in the "Rest of World" category. That section includes a grab-bag of clubs which are notable for other reasons but aren't members of a major FIFA-signed league. EA inked a multi-year deal with the club that includes "commitments to the Wrexham community and its fans," the company said 

The news leaked out a bit early when Wrexham appeared in a list of all teams in FIFA 22, as Eurogamer reported. Other National clubs might be peeved by the decision, but Wrexham does bring a certain notoriety with Reynolds as owner. "'Rest of World' is an important geographic area known for its random assortment of cultures, climates and football clubs. If you're planning on visiting 'Rest of World,' please consider visiting Wrexham," he said in a typically sassy video. 

Women's soccer is coming to 'Football Manager,' but it will take a while

Football Manager developer Sports Interactive has a history of inclusive gameplay, and that now extends to women. The company has revealed that it's adding women's soccer (aka football) to its management sim. This will likely be a "multi-year" project, SI warned, but this also isn't a simple character model swap. The studio wants to offer the same kind of depth it has for men's sport while accounting for the differences between players and leagues.

There will be new models and databases, of course. However, SI noted that it also has to account for different league rules, gender differences in text translations (the most expensive part of the project) and tweaks to different player attribute systems. The company also has to decide whether or not it accounts for certain practical realities of women's soccer, at least at first — does it factor in menstruation and pregnancy, for example?

The team recently hired coach and research expert Tina Keech to lead its women's soccer efforts, and there are already motion capture sessions underway.

The expansion will likely prove costly. SI expects adding women will "cost millions," and it's looking for sponsorship deals that could help fund the project. However, the company believes there's a moral imperative to add women to the game — it wants to "smash" the glass ceiling for women's soccer and help it get the same attention given to men's leagues. In other words, Football Manager will be part of a larger sports equality campaign that includes games like FIFA as well as better TV coverage of real-world matches.