Challenges set for the FIFA Innovation Programme

Tackling the current innovation challenges in football. In order to achieve the ambitious target of obtaining tangible results within a 24-month period, the problems must be clearly defined.

The Football Technology & Innovation Subdivision is in constant dialogue with internal and external stakeholders to understand, refine and ultimately accurately formulate the current needs of the football world into specific challenges that technology providers, manufacturers, start-ups or established companies can help solve. These challenges set the clear, non-negotiable scope of the projects that are of interest and which will be considered for membership.

Clustered into four major areas of interest, football equipment & playing surfaces, officiating technologies, performance technologies and football experience technologies, the challenges are described with the clearest possible definition of the expected outcome while being aimed at enabling innovation within the given framework.

Challenge 1: Artificial turf systems designed without polymeric infill

Category: Football equipment & playing surfaces

The FIFA Quality Programme for Football Turf has enabled the development of football over the last two decades by offering viable alternative surfaces for the game to be played on. While many technical and biomedical issues have been tackled over the years, there is currently a pressing need to find solutions that address sustainability and, in particular, the issue of regulation in relation to microplastics. In part triggered by legislative initiatives but mostly based on the belief that technology is available, FIFA is looking for producers of systems designed without (non-biodegradable) polymeric infills that will nevertheless allow football to be played with the same performance levels as the systems and pitches currently certified under the FIFA Quality Programme. For the avoidance of doubt, biodegradable infill, natural infill, mineral infill or non-filled systems will all be considered under this category.

Challenge 2: Innovative Electronic Performance & Tracking Systems

Category: Football equipment & playing surfaces

The most common type of EPTS in football is the wearable worn in a vest on the player’s upper back. FIFA’s impact assessment testing and Quality Programme for EPTS have created a recognised framework for these systems to be tested and approved in accordance with the Laws of the Game. As technology develops, FIFA is keen to explore systems that currently do not conform to this definition but add value to the performance or medical aspects of the game by offering new data sources that are currently not available or simpler and more cost-efficient solutions for the football world. Any devices must be able to demonstrate this added value as well as show that they do not pose any risk to both the player wearing the EPTS and any potential opposing player.  

Challenge 3: Basic GLT system

Category: Officiating technologies

Goal-line technology was the first technological officiating tool that was approved for use in game in 2012. In an effort to enable the wider use of this technology beyond elite leagues, FIFA is keen to explore such Goal-line technology systems that, broadly speaking, fulfil the majority of requirements of the FIFA Quality Programme for GLT, offer a high level of accuracy and repeatability with significant lower resource requirements. The “basic GLT” solution shall take all elements including installation, hardware and operations into account.

Challenge 4: Basic video assistant referee systems (“VAR light”)

Category: Officiating technologies

Video assistant referee (VAR) technology was approved for first experiments in 2016 and included in the Laws of the Game in 2018, since when it has been rolled out globally. In line with FIFA’s objective of leveraging technology to help improve the game at all levels, this challenge is aimed at eliciting VAR solutions that fulfil the core needs of this officiating technology while reducing the resources required – whether in terms of direct costs, personnel or infrastructure (with a maximum of eight cameras). Participants should take into account the information in the document provided by FIFA, especially regarding the steps that remain mandatory for live use during controlled experiments.

Challenge 5: Semi-automated offside technologies

Category: Officiating technologies

In line with FIFA’s vision of leveraging technology in order to improve the game and in an effort to further support video assistant referees (VARs) in making timely and correct decisions in relation to offside, FIFA is calling on providers to propose semi-automated solutions that eliminate as many manual steps as possible from the procedure for determining offside positions. “Semi-automated” implies the use of artificial intelligence to provide the VAR with an alert when a suspected offside situation occurs, alongside a visual representation, on the basis of which the officials can make a decision in as close to real time as possible.