Tech-in-sports: How Spidercam spiced up ManU v Liverpool match


Modern day sports are continually embracing technology. One can only imagine the level of controversies that would still dot the corridors of many sports activities today, but for the impact of technology.

spidercam hanging up at the OldTrafford, overlooking the pitch

However, before technology ushered in the convenience, robustness and assurances that are the order of the day in modern games, it was heavily criticised and greatly resisted. One criticism of the use of technology was that it could slow down the speed of the game and take away the spontaneity which is regarded as a major ingredient in watching any game.

But today, reverse appears to be the case as technology is discovered to be making watching games more enjoyable with correct decisions making. Although the use of technology cuts across all sports, Football is particularly living technology.

From video replay technique, Hawk eye goal line technology to Squawka heat map analytics and the just introduced Spidercam, the thin line between sports and technology is fast disappearing.

Video replay could be used to decide off-side decisions, whether a ball passes over the goal line, and clarify penalty decisions. Although it has been over time resisted in soccer, it was however used for the first time recently in the history-making friendly match between France and Italy where Italy experienced a shock 3-1 defeat by France.

James Milner’s spot Kick captured by Spidercam

Squawka Heat maps is a tactical analysis web application that provides a platform to view real-time and post match statistics of almost everything that goes on in a football match. This includes time of possession, number of passes, number of shots, shot accuracy, chances created, tackles, blocks, and player statistics, among others. Specifically for Football, heat maps are an indicator of effectiveness of a player in different parts of the pitch.

Hawk eye/goal line technology Hawk-eye is the name of a computer and camera system which traces a ball’s trajectory. It is being used in international cricket and tennis. Recently it made its way into football as goal line technology. Just like its name suggests, it is used to give a definitive decision on whether the ball had crossed the goal line

And now…

Sky Sports Commentators doing their thing, mainly excited by the spice Spidercam adds to the game

The Spidercam technology: Spidercam is a camera suspended above the pitch via four wires attached to each corner of the ground and maneuvered by an operator to follow the action, fluctuating between 10 and 40 metres above the pitch.

The technology has been used in cricket and the beauty it adds to coverage of a football match is great, though there have been occasional mishaps, including a reported shot from India’s Virat Kohli that hit the camera in an ODI against Australia last year.

Meanwhile, after getting approval by the city council in England last Monday, it was used in a premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at the weekend. In fact it was a key component of the Sky Sports coverage of the event.

James Milner’s superb penalty which put Liverpool in front against Manchester United in the first half of the game was the first Premier League goal to be captured by Spidercam.

The technology performed its first assignment when Paul Pogba handled a Liverpool corner, 27 minutes into the game. The special Camera was lined up behind Milner as he struck the ball past David De Gea.

Spidercam being hoisted before the game

Many Fans watching the match on TV relieved superb experiences of the perfect angle – higher than the usual penalty angle and giving a much clearer view of the goal. The angle was used sporadically by Sky however, catching the eye again late on when used for a replay of a missed header by Georginio Wijnaldum.

The birds-eye view technology used for the Old Trafford showdown sees the Premier League follow the lead set by the Champions League and World Cup.