World Cup sweepstake: Spark goes back to basics ahead of high-tech tournament

The greatest show on earth has returned. While England’s hopes of coming home victorious will inevitably end in disappointment, the World Cup sweepstake at Spark HQ has garnered some serious interest.

The draw itself was a tense affair, and while we may not be as high-tech as FIFA, here at Spark we prefer a traditional approach – pulling each team from my very own, and very fashionable hat. This had the added benefit of making sure that Sepp Blatter couldn’t accuse us of blowing hot and cold. The layout of the draw was simple: a first round buy-in of a fiver with a second round available for an extra three pounds (if the team you got first was abysmal). As is customary with a sweepstake, some were lucky and others were left bitterly disappointed. Those with Brazil (myself), France (Aimee), Spain (Dom) or Germany (Alex C) will feel confident about walking away with the cash. Those with England (Gus), Iran (Tom) or Saudi Arabia (David) probably less so. The draw was not void of controversy, as rumours of an illegal ‘Spain for Japan’ swap circled round the office. Fortunately, we appear to have more integrity then FIFA, so that potential indiscretion was quickly stamped out.

Though the Spark sweepstake was relatively drama-free, it wouldn’t be a World Cup without a bit of controversy. This year’s World Cup sees the introduction of VAR (Virtual Assistant Referee) and an NFC chip embedded into the ball. This marks a welcome step-forward in the adoption of technology in the sport, as it tries to connect to a fanbase some feel it has neglected. According to one study from Belgian university KU Leuven, the system improves decision accuracy from 93% to 98.8%, and one can only hope it will prevent situations like Frank Lampard’s 2010 goal that never was, or Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God.’

At the end of the day, let’s hope the technology doesn’t present an unwanted distraction to what occurs on the pitch. The World Cup is an incredible spectacle that brings people together across the globe (and across the office) to watch the beautiful game. We wish Gareth Southgate and his men all the best on their travels. Bring it home boys.