Semi-automated offside technology at the World Cup: how does it work?

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will use semi-automated offside technology.

FIFA will use the technology to try to improve the speed and accuracy of offside decisions.

The technology was successfully tested in the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup and in the FIFA Club World Cup last year.

What is semi-automated offside technology?

“The semi-automated offside technology has been developed to support video match officials,” said Johannes Holzmuller, FIFA’s director of football technology and innovation. “For example, during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the video operations room will receive an automated alert in the event of an offside situation, as well as an automatically selected kicking point and an offside line. – game automatically traced a few seconds after the incident.

“After that, the video match officials must validate the proposed selected kick spot as well as the proposed offside line. The VAR communicates the final decision to the referee on the pitch.

“In terms of accuracy, it’s important because when you’re more accurate, it’s good,” added Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee. “In terms of time, I think it’s more psychological. We felt something was needed, and that’s why we wanted to offer something that gave a quicker response. We are aware that football is different [from other sports] and making a decision faster was important, and that’s why we worked in that direction.

How will semi-automated offside technology work?

At the moment, VAR can only use broadcast cameras to make offside decisions. But with semi-automated offside technology, cameras will be installed on the roof of the stadium. They will be able to follow the 22 players to calculate their exact position on the field. There will be 29 data points on each player to cover all possible limbs and extremities that may be offside.

Also, the official match ball of the World Cup, the Adidas”Al Rihlawill be equipped with a sensor that sends data 500 times per second. This means it can detect the exact moment the ball was played for the offside decision – much more accurate than conventional camera frames (limited to 50 frames per second).

“We will set up in each World Cup stadium, 12 dedicated optical tracking cameras,” said Holzmuller. “All of these cameras work together and are 100% synchronized. On top of that, the official match ball will feature connected ball technology. A new Adidas suspension system houses a 500 hertz IMU [inertial measurement unit] sensor in the center of the ball.

“This information is transmitted via antennas inside the stadium to the video operations room. In order for the system to accurately detect the offside position, the optical tracking system collects 29 data points, and it will happen 50 times per second.

“The IMU sensor inside the ball will provide a stream of ball data that is nothing more than multi-axis ball acceleration data. We will get automated detection of a hit point from very precise footing, which is especially important in very close and tight offside situations.

“We combine the different sets of data by applying artificial intelligence, and that automated alert then appears on a timeline inside the video ops room. This happens immediately, within seconds. But of course, in addition , there’s the manual validation process by the video match officials to make sure the data and everything is correct.

Will semi-automated offside technology mean marginal offsides again?

“The goal is to have very precise technology, something similar to goal-line technology that offers very high precision,” Collina explained. “Goal line technology is praised by everyone for its accuracy. So whether the ball crossed the goal line by very few millimeters or not, and the technology proves it, everyone is happy and everyone praises the technology for the very good response.

“The same should be true for semi-automated offside technology, which provides proof that a player was offside or onside in a very precise way. This technology also deserves praise.

“I don’t see any difference between certifying a goal was scored or not, or certifying a player was in an offside or offside position.”

“We use the same elements to generate 3D animation because we want to provide the best possible perspective for football fans,” added Holzmuller. “I think we can all agree, especially with tight offside decisions, sometimes it’s quite difficult to tell if a player was offside or not.

“The replay shows the exact position of the players when the ball was played, and the 3D animation will be shared on the stadium’s giant screen and on TV.”

How long will it take to make decisions?

“I’ve heard of four or five seconds to get the offside decision,” Collina said. “We will go from an average of 70 seconds to 20 or 25. It could be less when the offside incident is quite easy, but we certainly can’t get an answer in four or five seconds. It’s definitely a bad expectation. It will be faster, it will be more precise. These are the goals. »

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Is technology taking over football?

“We’ve heard of robot referees and similar things,” Collina added. “I understand that sometimes it’s very good for headlines, but it’s not.

“Match officials are always involved in the decision-making process, as the semi-automated offside only gives an answer when a player who was in an offside position plays the ball. In other words, the Assessing interference with an opponent remains the responsibility of the referees.

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Will it ever be fully automated?

“Goal line technology clarifies black and white decisions because there is only the ball and the line, and for this reason it was quite easy to find a fully automated solution,” Collina said. last year. “In an offside incident, the decision is made after analyzing not only the position of the players, but also their involvement in the game.

“Technology, today or tomorrow, can draw a line but the assessment of interference with the game, or with an opponent, remains in the hands of the referees. game remains crucial and final.

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Maria D. Ervin