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Said to be in development since 2019, FIFA’s semi-automated offside detection technology will be making its official World Cup debut in Qatar this November. The tech is the latest addition to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system which was first utilized in the FIFA World Cup during the 2018 edition in Russia.

The Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, Perluigi Collina pointed out that the organisation is aware that the offside validation process sometimes took too long under the current system. Given the fact that today’s players are well adept at playing around the offside line, this often led to a very tight offside incident.

FIFA VAR Semi-Automated Offside Detection Technology
A video match official in his element. [Image: FIFA.]

Hence, this is why FIFA see the need to develop the new semi-automated offside detection technology with the aim to allow for a faster and more accurate offside decision. The new tech utilizes 12 dedicated tracking cameras to monitor the movement of each individual player as well as the ball on the field.

The tracking is not limited to where they are on the field at a certain point of the match but also involved up to 29 data points related to all of the player’s limbs and extremities that are associated with offside calls. Furthermore, the variant of Adidas Al Rihla Pro that will be used as the official ball at the FIFA World Cup Qatar has a built-in sensor that can deliver data to the VAR room at a rate of 500 times per second which allows the tech to precisely detect the kick point as compared to the existing broadcast and optical tracking.

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Adidas Al Rihla - Official Ball for FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar
Adidas Al Rihla: the official match ball for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. [Image: Adidas.]
FIFA VAR Semi-Automated Offside Detection Technology
A sample of live data produced by the sensor inside the Adidas Al Rihla Pro connected ball. [Image: FIFA.]

All of the data generated by the trackers will then be processed in real-time and through artificial intelligence, the tech will then automatically issue offside alerts to the officials at the VAR room. When that happened, the officials in the VAR room still have to manually verify the alert before they can inform the on-field referee.

Once video match officials and the on-field referee confirmed the offside decision, a 3D animation will be generated using the same data that was used to determine the decision. This animation which looked rather similar to the one used for goal-line technology is meant to clearly show why the offside happened to the audience at the stadium as well as TV viewers.

semi-automated offside detection technology
Another view of the 3D animation produced by the semi-automated offside detection technology. [Image: FIFA.]

In a recent interview with Living Football, FIFA’s Director of Technology and Innovation Johannes Holzmüller pointed out that in all of the tests they have done so far, the new tech managed to significantly reduce the time taken to confirm an offside decision which currently averages at around 70 seconds. That being said, he added that the new technology will continue to be tested and fine-tuned for weeks to come in preparation for the upcoming World Cup.

Even though the VAR system is now no longer foreign among the top leagues and tournaments across the world, opinions regarding it are still mixed though. So, let’s see if this new tech will be able to improve its reputation or otherwise.

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