Semi-automated offside detection to be used at World Cup in Qatar, FIFA announces

Semi-automated offside detection to be used at World Cup in Qatar, FIFA announces

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FIFA announced in a statement Friday (July 1) that semi-automated offside detection technology will be used at the next World Cup, staged November 21-December 18 in Qatar. This technology “offers a support tool for video referees and on-field referees to help them make faster, more accurate and consistent decisions on offside situations,” FIFA said.

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The World Cup stadiums in Qatar will be equipped with 12 special cameras placed on the roofs to capture the positions of the ball and the players. For each player, 29 data points (hand, foot, knee, arm, head, etc.) will be checked 50 times per second. A sensor placed in the center of the ball will send up to 500 data per second. All this data will be processed simultaneously. An automatic alert will be transmitted to the video viewing room – and not the pitch referee – for each offside situation.

A reliable decision in 25 seconds

According to FIFA, this system will eliminate the problem of the margin of error, especially in determining the moment of departure of the ball. The automatic analysis will nevertheless be checked humanely by the video referees, who will have to validate the moment of the pass and the offside line, before notifying the central referee. The process should take 20 to 25 seconds, compared to 70 on average currently in borderline cases.

FIFA’s dream is to one day achieve a system as clear, fast and indisputable as the Goal-line technology, introduced during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which makes it possible to determine whether the ball has completely crossed or not the goal line. From a margin of error of 3 centimeters in its infancy, the system is now reliable to within a few millimeters. In the event of a goal, the central referee is warned by a vibration in his watch on his wrist.

The offside detection system is not yet as complete but is considered to be sufficiently “objective” to offer television viewers and spectators a 3D animation reconstituting the disputed situation, on the model of what is practiced in tennis during “challenges” verified by Hawk-Eye technology (which equips the vast majority of stadiums equipped with Goal-line technology). Until now, the people present in the stadiums were the great forgotten of the video refereeing, being kept in the most complete blackout of image, sometimes for several minutes, FIFA and UEFA preferring not to broadcast slow motion for fear hostile reactions from the public.

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The massive and accelerated use of technology in football is one of the main concerns of FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his head of refereeing, former referee Pierluigi Collina. Considering that the implementation of VAR during the 2018 World Cup in Russia had been “a courageous decision” and “a great success”, Gianni Infantino is determined “to promote the use of technology to improve football at all levels. levels, and the use of semi-automated offside detection technology at the 2022 World Cup is a case in point.”

“The final decision will always rest with the referee on the field”

“The tests have been very successful and we are convinced that we will have a tool in Qatar that will provide invaluable assistance to referees and assistant referees, so that they can make the fairest decisions possible,” said Pierluigi Collina, President of the FIFA Referees Committee. It is not, however, a “robotic offside”, as some say. The final decision will always rest with the referees and assistant referees on the pitch.”

This system was notably tested last year during the Arab Cup and then during the Club World Cup. Three scientific teams shared the work of developing the technology: the MIT Spor Lab validated the online and offline tests, the TRACK team at the University of Victoria developed the tracking of players’ limbs and extremities , ETH Zurich provided additional information on the technological capabilities of multi-camera tracking systems.

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Over the coming months, further testing will be carried out to optimize the system before global standards are put in place to allow this new technology to be used in the world of football. The technical details as well as the protocol for training and use will be presented during the seminar for qualified teams to be held on July 4 and 5 in Doha, then communicated to the public.

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