Semi-automated offside: FIFA happy with Club World Cup testing

FIFA has announced that they have been encouraged by the testing of semi-automated offside technology at the Club World Cup, ahead of its likely implementation at the 2022 World Cup.

One of the principal complaints supporters have had about VAR has been the time it takes for officials to make a decision.

The semi-automated technology, sometimes referred to as ‘robot offside’, attempts to alleviate this. Here is how it all works…

Ten dedicated cameras, as well as several television broadcast cameras, are set up in the stadium to track 18 data points of each individual player, giving their position on the pitch.

The number of data points is expected to increase to 29 points per player by the time of the FIFA World Cup.

This data, gathered 50 times a second, is then relayed to an AVAR specifically dedicated to offside decisions to check and make their recommendation to the VAR and the on-field referee.

This process happens in real time and so means decisions can be made on offside calls in seconds.

Early evidence suggests it will. This was demonstrated in the Club World Cup semi-finals in February.

During Palmeiras vs Al Ahly, the latter thought they’d scored to make it 2-1 – only for semi-automated offside tech to intervene and force the strike to be chalked off. Unlike with VAR, this process took no longer than a few seconds.

This example is part of a wider trend of the tech shortening decision making significantly.

The plan is that semi-automated offside technology will be used at the 2022 World Cup, provided that progress continues to be made in the testing process.

The Chairman of FIFA’s Referee Committee Pierluigi Collina and FIFA’s Technology and Innovation team has praised SAOT for its ability to help officials make decisions.

“We’re continuing a test to try to achieve the objective: to have more accurate decisions and also quicker decisions in offside incidents,” he said.

“I know that someone called it ‘robot offside’; it’s not.”

“The referees and the assistant referees are still responsible for the decision on the field of play. The technology only gives them valued support to make more accurate and quicker decisions, particularly when the offside incident is very tight and very difficult.”

Author: Arthur Fox