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SuperCupNI: Tournament showcasing talent and technology

Mexicans turn on the style against Boro as tournament shines light on future with exciting new gadget for refs

By Keith Bailie

Chivas Guadalajara's sensational 6-1 win over Middlesbrough in Clough yesterday suggested that the SuperCupNI will continue to showcase new talent, but the popular youth tournament is also blooding new technology.

At this year's event, each referee has an interactive wristwatch which allows them to record injury time, goals and bookings.

When it comes to bookings, rather than pulling an old-fashioned notebook from their pocket and scrawling down the name of the offending player, referees at the SuperCupNI can be seen tapping the information into their watch.

The concept and technology were created by English company SixRef, and the founders believe it will revolutionise how match officials referee the beautiful game.

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Designer Hassan Rajwani explained: "Basically, we've designed a smartwatch app and a mobile phone app for referees.

"It's really designed at grassroots level but we've started to get some interest from senior guys as well, some FIFA referees.

"The app handles match administration. On the mobile phone app you add your fixtures and when you get the teamsheets at the game, you input them to the phone and hit a button to send them to your watch.

"When you're about to kick-off you quickly click who kicks off and the clock starts running. If there is an injury, you tap the watch and the added time appears at the top of the screen.

"You can input yellow cards and red cards, substitutions and goals.

"That has already been very useful at this tournament."

So far, the officials at the SuperCupNI seem to be enjoying the SixRef experience.

Rajwani, a grassroots referee himself, said: "It's fantastic for us to trail our watch at tournaments like the SuperCupNI.

"The refs were given a tutorial on Sunday, and seemed to respond in a positive manner. Some of them have had a few issues using the watches on Monday, which is understandable, but many of the refs have really taken to them."

The watch hasn't just been useful for the referees, it's also helped SuperCupNI organisers, based at Coleraine's Lodge Hotel.

Normally they have to wait for groundstaff at each venue to phone through the full-time score, but this year they receive scores the second the referee taps a button on his mobile phone.

Rajwani believes the watch has great potential.

He said: "The next stage is performance tracking. We are working on a heat map of the ref's positioning on the pitch, speed and distance etc.

"It's something similar to what Garmin do for runners, but we are saying we are going to be the referees' specialist.

"For this tournament all the squad lists are in the phone app, making it easier and quicker for the referees. After the game, they can quickly send all the data to the tournament base.

"It could also be used for things like providing websites with live goal updates from grassroots games. You could have goal alerts on your phone for your local Sunday League fixture. The possibilities are endless."

Don't be surprised if you see the watch in action in the Irish League this season. Rajwana has already held discussions with the Irish FA.

"Lee Tavinder at the Irish FA has been speaking to us and we are looking to trail it in a league in Northern Ireland at some stage this year," he said.

"He will work with the NI Football League to see which league but the SuperCupNI have certainly embraced what it can do in terms of getting results and information back quickly."

While some things in football never change, RefSix may signal the end of the infamous referee's notebook.

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