Did you know that soccer is played in more than 200 countries by almost 250 million people? This makes soccer the most popular game in the world. The earliest form of soccer was the Chinese Cuju (Tsu-Chu) that started around 206BC — 220AD during the Han Dynasty. The name Cuju means kicking the ball. The official Cambridge Rules for soccer were founded in 1848. Then the sport developed into the contemporary form that is played today. There is a fascinating story behind the changes that have occurred over the years. There have been changes regarding how it is handled on and off the field. It is also interesting how fans associate themselves with popular players and major teams. All these changes can be attributed to technology, social media, and tactical development. While soccer may have started as a simple game, it has now transformed into a global phenomenon. The sport is more than just having 11 players competing with 11 players on a weekend.
Changes in Soccer Rules
Over time, the rules have been tweaked in the following ways:
• Introduction of goal kicks in 1869
• Addition of crossbars to goalposts in 1875
• Introduction of penalty kicks in 1891
• Implementation of the offside rule in 1990
• Introduction of pass back rule in 1992 (goalkeepers cannot touch the ball with hands after a deliberate pass)
• The inception of goal-line technology in 2013
• The debut of VAR in 2017
Like any other industry, a lot of changes in soccer are thanks to technology. The in-game and external gameplay has been transformed tremendously. Before the TVs, no soccer game was broadcast. The first soccer was televised in 1937 by BBC. It is today the most-watched game in the world with over 3.5 billion fans having viewed the most recent 2018 World Cup that occurred in Russia. With almost half of the global population following the World Cup, TV and media corporations now air more matches as they happen. The Premier League has made revenue of $11.7 billion for selling its broadcasting rights. When it comes to Major League Soccer (MLS), the structure of broadcasting varies significantly from the European’s. Programs are more focused on local matches and differ from one franchise to the next.
Video Assisted Referee (V.A.R)
This is an external professional responsible for reviewing the decisions that the in-game referee makes. He uses a video and communicates to the in-game referee through live broadcast. Often, V.A.Rs are disputed by coaches, players, and pundits as their decisions are bound to spur debates. But V.A.R is an upgrade towards the right direction in terms of sports technology. In the future, it may help to eliminate the issue of human error.
The 21st Century soccer puts more emphasis on sports science. This is how players workout, recover, and diet. Every team goes through scrutiny and data-driven analysis is recorded. Players make use of wearable technology to track their distances, exercise rates, and movements during training. There are compression vests for the upper body consisting of athletic tools for gathering information for each training session. The data is used to examine the output and performance of the soccer player. It also serves as a guide for preventative measures and injury recoveries.
Social Media and Soccer Fanatics
The relationships between soccer players and fans have changed through social media engagement. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other sites offer direct links for communication. The shift towards mobile technology has made players, broadcasters, and teams to focus their opinions on social media. Social media is also used as a marketing tool by soccer franchises. Soccer organizations are now sharing more content on social platforms to encourage interactions with fans and strengthen their relationships. Every platform has changed soccer in unique ways:
• Facebook and Soccer
Being the World’s top social media channel, Facebook is the biggest platform connecting players, teams, and fans. The channel has been offering lot of value for people who want to consume soccer content. However, its growth seems to have slowed down in the last few years and now the fans seem to favor other platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
• Soccer on Instagram
This is the leading voice of every soccer player. Instagram is very personable, offering a perfect ground for fans to see their on-field icons. Almost all soccer players are on Instagram today. Followers visit Instagram to interact with soccer heroes more than any other social media platform. This has made Instagram one of the fastest growing online platforms for soccer entities. It is no wonder that there are three soccer players in the list of the top ten most popular Instagram accounts. These are Neymar, Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo. The sponsorship deals for each player highly depend on their social media command. The value that these soccer players add to their sponsors is tremendous and is associated more with their off-field activity than the on-field game. The players usually their sponsors regularly. Again, the image of the players has a strong link to the transfer of huge sums of money.
• Soccer Fans on Twitter
Twitter has become the modern voice of every soccer fan. It is a great landscape for airing out views, opinions, and sentiments following an event. Millions of debates and discussions about soccer happen on Twitter every day. This has therefore changed the attitude of soccer fans since it is one of the biggest sources of football news. Both news and rumors are very common on Twitter. Some accounts have been dedicated to the inside scoop for off-season occurrences. Many journalists bring breaking soccer news and exclusive stories on this platform. Football teams take advantage of the fans’ eagerness to release important information ahead of every game. Broadcasters of sports buy the rights to upload matches in real-time as they are posted on Twitter. As such, fans prefer Twitter as the go-to source for live content. When a broadcaster is not updating a highlight of the event, they are probably using the hashtag #LiveTweet. This keeps the fan updated immediately so they don’t have to watch sports telecasts later.
The sports of today require a commercial value in social media. The soccer franchise as well as soccer players must have profound strategies when posting on social media to attain the right exposure. Social media and technology have opened up massive opportunities while creating vulnerabilities and a platform for negative comments. Many players experience criticism and sometimes insults on social platforms. While this may not have an impact on what happens at the stadiums, social media is a stronghold on everything happening on the field. It determines how soccer content is consumed, generating a lot of money for various organizations.