Laptop coaches: Analysts to come into the open at World Cup

LAPTOPS and tablets will appear on the bench for the first time at this summer’s World Cup as tactical analysts are allowed into the open.

IFAB, which decides the rules of the game, has announced that “small, hand-held electronic or communication devices” will be allowed in the technical area “if used for coaching/ tactics or player welfare”. This can include items as large as laptops.

Devices are only allowed on the bench currently if they relate “directly to player welfare or safety”. The rule change, which was announced on April 20th and will come into force on June 1st, came about because IFAB believed it was “impossible to prevent communication to/ from the technical area”.

It means that Sam Allardyce should be able to jettison his trademark bluetooth earpiece next season. The Everton boss has used the earpiece for the last few seasons to communicate with analysts in the stand who relay tactical information to him.

An analyst can now move to the bench, alongside Allardyce (or whoever is Everton boss next season), and show him live tactical, technical and physical data as well as video clips from a number of different camera angles via tablet or laptop.

The law change was trialled during the final of last year’s Confederations Cup final between Germany and Chile and deemed to be a success. Staff from both teams were given tablets providing live positional data along with video match footage with a 30-second delay.

The data was collected using an optical tracking system and provided metrics including speed, passing and pressing.

Christofer Clemens, Germany’s head of scouting and analysis, said: “The use of real-time data in the technical area is a real benefit. Data adds another component to the relationship between the technical scouting and analysis department and the coaching team.

“Up until now, the processes for impacting the game were purely backed up by subjective observations – with all pros and cons. Reliable data now allows to validate these decision-making processes much more objectively.”

Clemens even argued that substitutions could be made using data and machine learning in future.

Joe Carnall, Head of Tactical Analysis at Derby County, told TGG: “Macbooks will be making an appearance on the bench and you’ll find a lot more analysts there too.”

But he is concerned that the new rule on electronic devices is very general and fails to specify exactly what types of data can be accessed on the bench,.

“They are going to have to be very precise in terms of what you can and can’t have on the bench and how you can use it live,” Carnall added.

“A lot of teams would like to make in-play decisions using live physical data. If we know a player has reached his max on intensity, that could be a sub the manager could consider making.

“They have to be very transparent in terms of what the rules are going to be, because it could very easily be manipulated. It will make the fourth official’s job very difficult. It’s happening already but will become a lot more public next season.”

IFAB Law 4: The players’ equipment

Old rule: The use of any form of electronic communication by team officials is not permitted except where it directly relates to player welfare or safety.

New rule: The use of any form of electronic equipment by team officials is permitted where it directly relates to player welfare or safety or for tactical/ coaching reasons... on small, mobile, hand-held equipment (eg microphone, headphone, ear-piece, mobile/ smartphone, smartwatch, tablet, laptop). A team official who uses unauthorised equipment or who behaves in an inappropriate manner as a result of the use of electronic or communication equipment will be dismissed from the technical area.

Explanation: As it is impossible to prevent communication to/ from the technical area and it is reasonable to have an exchange of information relating to coaching/ tactics or player welfare (but not match official’s decisions), the focus will move to the behaviour resulting from the use of such equipment.

Read more on:


More stories

Sign up to our newsletter to get all the latest news from The Guru