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26.05.2018, 11:50
iBall ready for a debut at the VELUX EHF FINAL4
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NEWS REPORT: A big stage premiere in handball awaits the iBall as a new chapter of storytelling will be written in Cologne.

»EHF CL Channel »2017-18 Men's CL
»Final Four
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iBall ready for a debut at the VELUX EHF FINAL4

The final weekend of handball’s VELUX EHF Champions League is set to become the first major event in sport to be played with game-changing tracking technology enabling the distribution of data in real time.

The VELUX EHF FINAL4 will see all four matches played with a new, intelligent ball developed by the European Handball Federations (EHF) official ball supplier, SELECT, and German tracking company, KINEXON.

Organiser of the event, EHF Marketing GmbH (EHFM), the marketing arm of the EHF, prides itself on bringing technological innovations to the showpiece event; developments which have included 3D TV production, referee cameras, the introduction of instant replay and goal-line technology.

Immense source of insight information

This year’s event will be no different as it will not only be the first to be produced in 4K/Ultra HD quality but new ‘iBall’ technology will deliver unprecedented levels of insight into the sport, providing athletes, fans, media and sponsors with the opportunity to see the game from completely new and fascinating angles.

In a collaboration dating back to January 2016, EHF Marketing, along with SELECT and KINEXON developed the unique ‘iBall’, which features an integrated tracking chip able to capture real-time information such as ball speed, position of the shot and placement of the ball in the goal.

Announced last year at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 fringe business event, ‘Handball goes Tech‘, the iBall is an exciting addition to the sport which is firmly establishing itself as one of the leading innovators in the sports market.

“Handball is a traditional sport so it’s important to keep up pace with developments in the digital space and engage with younger fans and new audiences,” said Henry Blunck, Head of Business Development at EHF Marketing to Digital Sport.

“We quickly identified that technology is a key enabler to reach out to new and younger fans. We tried to find something that fitted for all of our stakeholders and realised that tracking technology has the potential to create value for fans, media, coaches and athletes at the same time,” added Blunck from the EHF Headquarters in Vienna, Austria. “As handball is a very dynamic sport, full of action and pace, we came to this decision because we want to make the sport easier to understand.”

Data available also on the new app

Fans watching the action live in Cologne’s LANXESS arena over the VELUX EHF FINAL4 weekend will, through free wi-fi in the arena and a newly launched event app, have access to a variety of data in real-time including the speed of shots, the distance and position the shot was taken from, where the ball hits the goal and much more.

This data provides near-endless opportunities for over 80 global broadcasters, who will receive the information via TV graphics on the world feed. For commentators the EHF provides a dedicated information system including in-depth statistics to ease storytelling.

Fans at home will also have instant access to the data, via their desktop or mobile device, bringing them information such as the fastest and longest shots, shot efficiency ratios and much more via the competition’s website ehfCL.com.

However, with any new technology comes numerous testing stages and infrastructure requirements. The iBall project has been run in full at three games in different arenas this season in the VELUX EHF Champions League to establish the requirements of the system for the season finale.

In Cologne, Kinexon will have four engineers on site taking half a day to set up and calibrate the system with a dedicated Ethernet network installation complete with 14 receivers around the handball court.

Sitting alongside Kinexon engineers during the games will be scouts from Danish-based company TV Graphics, who will be collecting match data for TV and creating near-live graphics.

This data will be combined and merged with the new iBall data into one data feed and sent through to the TV directors and editors of the world feed as well as for the competition’s website, official app and social media channels.


TEXT: Andrew McSteen / br
 
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