FIFA to Trial Instant Offside Calls at Qatar's Arab Cup – SportTechie

FIFA has announced plans to trial its limb-tracking technology system to officiate offsides calls at the Arab Cup. The camera-based technology aims to produce offside calls within seconds of a play unfolding and eliminate delayed rulings. 
All six stadiums at the Arab Cup, staged in Qatar from Tuesday through Dec. 18, have been equipped with 10-to-12 cameras that hang from each venue’s roof. The cameras follow player movement on the pitch, tracking 29 data points on each player at a rate of 50 times per second.
FIFA refers to its limb-tracking offsides system as “semi-automated.” It was previously trialed at last year’s Club World Cup in Qatar.
By no longer having to wait for a play to end to call offsides, the system would reduce instances where fans celebrate goals that are called back due to penalty.
“The reason we call it semi-automated offside is because it’s still, at the end, the VAR that has to validate and confirm the proposed offsides line and the proposed kick point that comes out of the software. Then the VAR informs the referee on the pitch about the decision,” FIFA’s technology and innovation director Johannes Holzmüller told FIFA’s Living Football TV show.
Sinclair Broadcast Group has reached a multi-year renewal of its streaming rights agreement with the NHL. The new deal will expand Sinclair’s alternate broadcast feed options and its use of the NHL’s puck and player tracking data in broadcasts.
Sinclair’s Bally Sports Regional Networks will continue to stream games in local markets for 12 NHL teams: the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Sinclair plans to stream games from these teams on its own direct-to-consumer streaming app, scheduled to launch in 2022.  Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley also expects the network’s upcoming streaming service to offer games from NBA and MLB teams.
“I do think there will be some news around some of these renewal negotiations shortly,” Ripley said regarding Sinclair’s MLB rights at a Bank of America conference last week, according to The Streamable.
However, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in October that he does not believe Sinclair has rights to enough MLB teams to launch its own DTC product. Sinclair’s Bally Sports RSNs currently air games from 14 MLB and 16 NBA teams, but a New York Post report from October claimed that MLB is considering partnering with the NBA and NHL to launch their own streaming service.
Fans will be able to use Clear’s mobile app to show proof of their vaccine status or a negative Covid-19 test to attend the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Per health guidelines from the City of Pasadena, the college football bowl game between Utah and No. 6 Ohio State will only admit fans who are fully vaccinated or show a negative test result within 72 hours of entry.
Clear originally focused on gathering biometric data, such as fingerprints and facial recognition, for entry into sports venues and airports. The company’s pandemic-born in-app Health Pass is used by teams across the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL to screen a fan’s Covid-19 health status to enter stadiums. 
Investors in Clear include the NFL and Michael Jordan. The company also had a deal with mobile payment app Tappit, which partnered with the Rose Bowl in November to turn the stadium cashless. Fans in the venue can now scan QR codes to place orders for food, drinks and merchandise. 
College Football Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer has made a seed investment in name, image and likeness software startup Athlete Licensing Company. The company’s accounting software helps student-athletes record finance details related to their NIL deals.
 Fulmer was the University of Tennessee’s athletic director before retiring earlier this year and previously was head coach of the school’s football team from 1992-to-2008, including the Peyton Manning era. He is now on the advisory board at ALC, which was founded by Derek Crownover—a sports and entertainment lawyer at the Nashville-based firm Loeb & Loeb LLP. 
 ALC’s software aims to be a service for stakeholders such as athletes, parents, agents, universities, boosters and sponsors. The platform can be used to file and report tax information, while also advising student-athletes on NIL pricing and industry trends, among other features. 
Polygon Studios, the gaming arm of Ethereum infrastructure developer Polygon, has invested in sports gaming technology provider GameOn. Polygon will help develop NFT-based contests for GameOn, which has deals to make free-to-play games for the WNBA, NWSL and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. 
 Polygon will fund 50% of GameOn’s ongoing product development cost. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is an investor in Polygon, which partnered with DraftKings in October to support its new NFT marketplace. 
 Product development at GameOn is led by Santi Jaramillo, the former head of sports at Dapper Labs. “Leveraging Polygon’s technology, GameOn continues to lean into blockchain and NFTs, bringing innovative gamification to the rapidly growing Web3 and metaverse economies,” GameOn CEO Matt Bailey said in a statement. 
GameOn recently announced plans to further expand into the Indian market after it secured up to $6 million in funding from The Times Group, the largest media conglomerate in India. Its subsidiaries include entertainment app MX Player, which uses GameOn to offer Indian Premier League cricket prediction games.
The NFL has held two crowdsourced computer vision challenges to automate the identification of players who have suffered helmet impacts—by using game footage. The second phase of the process began in August, and, on Thursday, the NFL reported having appreciably exceeded its goal of artificial intelligence outperforming humans.
Speaking on a web panel organized by league partner Amazon Web Services, NFL SVP of health and innovation Jennifer Langton reported that the computer vision algorithms can now do in less than two hours what human trackers needed three or four days to accomplish.
“We built together our first ever helmet detection system, which was a tremendous step with the labeling on ground truth where we can start to train the system on how we detect, classify, identify injuries and significant events. That’s all manual right now,” Langton said, adding: “Computers are automatically able to identify players involved in those impacts through game footage, with greater accuracy, and significantly faster than when a human can do.”
Langton was unable to disclose the identity of the winning entry, but noted that thousands of data scientists had joined the competitions. The NFL started a three-year partnership with AWS to process its extensive injury database and construct the Digital Athlete, a composite computer simulation of a player that can be used to help identify injury risks. The recently expanded mouthguard sensor program is another input into gathering data on head impacts.
Priya Ponnapalli, senior manager at the Amazon Machine Learning Solutions Lab, said the league has been using Amazon SageMaker Ground Truth to process this information.
“This is one of the foundational and truly key pieces of these initiatives that are just helping increase the pace of innovation when it comes to collecting this data, labeling the data, analyzing the data,” she said. “[There is] plenty of potential, and the learnings from this are going to impact all levels of the sport and even beyond.”
Amazon has made an investment into Dibbs, a blockchain-backed marketplace for buying and selling fractional shares of sports cards. The tech giant’s backing follows Dibbs’ $13 million raise in July that included athlete investors Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Skylar Diggins, Deandre Hopkins and Kris Bryant.  
Physical trading cards sold on Dibbs must first be graded and sent to Dibbs’ vault location for storage. Owners can then set the price of their card on Dibbs’ app and allow other users to buy fractionalized shares of their card—giving collectors the chance to own minor stakes in cards that were perhaps previously out of their price range under the traditional full-ownership model.
“Traditional ownership has limitations that the emerging metaverse eliminates,” Dibbs founder and CEO Evan Vandenberg said in a statement. 
Transactions on Dibbs are stored as smart contracts on the blockchain. Dibbs, which collects a 2.9% fee for each fraction of an item sold, can mail a physical card to a user if they buy 100% of the card. The funding marks Amazon’s initial foray into the sports collectibles space, which includes similar startups such as Rally and Collectable for trading fractional shares of memorabilia. 
The UFC has struck a deal with connected fitness startup CLMBR to promote its vertical climbing machine during broadcasts. CLMBR’s cardio-based machines will be added to the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas for fighters to use during strength and conditioning workouts.
 CLMBR, which announced NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. as an investor on Thursday and received funding from Novak Djokovic and Jay-Z last year, will also have brand placement inside the Octagon during select UFC events. UFC athletes can also become paid ambassadors for CLMBR, which retails its product for $2,799—plus a $40 monthly fee to access instructor workouts along with an app that tracks data such as distance climbed and calories burned. 
 The seven-foot, four-inch tall machine comes with a connected touch-screen to stream workouts. CLMBR is the latest at-home workout machine to secure a major sports sponsorship, with LeBron James recently signing a deal with Tonal
Cameo, the app for celebrities to send recorded videos to fans, is partnering with the NHL’s Washington Capitals to let fans buy personalized messages from players. Each Washington player has picked a charity as part of its “Caps for a Cause” program, with 100% of the Cameo earnings going to the player’s selected beneficiary.
Videos from most of the 17 participating Capitals players will cost about $100, but stars such as Alex Ovechkin ($400) and T.J. Oshie ($300) will charge a higher fee. Sales from Ovechkin’s videos will benefit the American Special Hockey Association, while Oshie has chosen the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. Several others chose the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation.
More than 2.5 million personalized video messages have been bought on Cameo since its launch in 2017. Magic Johnson joined Cameo’s board of directors in June, and the company raised $100 million in March with investments from Google, Amazon and skateboarder Tony Hawk. 
Sports data firm Sportradar has signed a multi-year agreement with online sportsbook PointsBet to expand the company’s live in-game betting offerings. Sportradar will supply data to PointsBet spanning the NBA, NHL, MLB, college football and college basketball. 
PointsBet can now livestream sports within its app through Sportradar’s Live Channel Online service. The betting app will also have access to pre-game odds suggestions from Sportradar, which is already infiltrating the college market by partnering with schools to provide betting integrity education to student-athletes. 
This latest agreement with PointsBet marks Sportradar’s sixth multi-year deal in the past 12 months with a multi-state U.S. sports betting operator. In October, Sportradar reached a deal with advertising software company Adomni to give Sportradar’s partners the ability to integrate live stats and betting odds into their ad campaigns. 
DDSports, the parent company of sensor-based basketball system ShotTracker, is exploring plans to expand its tracking technology into other sports, including football. ShotTracker currently captures shooting analytics for 60 college basketball programs, including all men’s and women’s teams in the Big 12 and Mountain West conferences. 
“We’re doing quite a bit of testing in football and looking at some other sports,’’ DDSports co-founder and president Davyeon Ross said Wednesday at Sports Business Journal’s Dealmakers In Sports conference in New York City. “We’re having some deeper testing with football right now and having initial discussions with some of the sports to go into the market.’’ 
ShotTracker’s current basketball system involves sensors embedded into game balls, player jerseys and also inside arenasto track more than 70 shooting statistics that can be viewed on iPads by coaches and players during games. Another future growth point for DDSports will be sharing its real-time data with sports betting companies. 
“We know that we can empower a whole level of gambling that historically hasn’t been accessed,” Ross said. “We’re [currently] doing integrations to prepare for those opportunities.”
Ross admitted that his company’s gambling ambitions will, at least initially, be more focused on the professional level rather than the college space. One pro team already partnered with ShotTracker is the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. ShotTracker has deals with networks such as ESPN and CBS to display its statistics during college basketball broadcasts, and Ross sees more lucrative opportunities to capitalize off data at the college level rather than pro leagues.  
“It’s harder to work in college because they’re so fragmented,’’ he said. “But once you’re able to capitalize on that market, the ceiling is removed. Because you’re not just a tech partner, you’re a tech and a data commercialization partner. You can get licensing fees all day but the commercialization piece [is] where you’re partnering to say ‘How can we exploit this data?’ When you work with the leagues, they’re like ‘Alright, you’re a vendor, give me the data, I’ll go make all the money.’ So there’s a very different dynamic.”
 

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