Ball sensors & cameras – Qatar World Cup to use semi-automated offside

Qatar 2022 will be the first FIFA men’s World Cup to use semi-automated offside technology in an effort to improve the speed and accuracy of decisions.

The technology – successfully tested at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup and at last year’s FIFA Club World Cup – will see video match officials receive offside alerts, with decisions validated manually before being communicated to the on-field referee.

Image: The Al Rihla official match ball for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (pic: Adidas)

Communication with fans inside stadiums will also be improved with a 3D animation displayed on big screens, and to television viewers at home, showing how the offside decision was reached.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: “Semi-automated offside technology is an evolution of the VAR systems that have been implemented across the world.

“This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing to provide the very best for the teams, players and fans who will be heading to Qatar later this year.

Image: Gianni Infantino has greeted the arrival of semi-automated offside technology

“FIFA is committed to harnessing technology to improve the game of football at all levels, and the use of semi-automated offside technology at the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is the clearest possible evidence.”

How semi-automated offside technology works

The new technology uses 12 dedicated tracking cameras mounted underneath the roof of the stadium to track the ball and up to 29 data points of each individual player, 50 times per second, calculating their exact position on the pitch.

The 29 collected data points include all limbs and extremities that are relevant for making offside calls.

Image: Lusail Stadium will host the Qatar 2022 World Cup final

The adidas Al Rihla official World Cup match ball provides a further vital element for the detection of tight offside incidents as an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor will be placed inside the ball.

This sensor, positioned in the centre of the ball, sends ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second, allowing a very precise detection of the kick point.

By combining limb-tracking and ball-tracking data and applying artificial intelligence, the new technology provides an automated offside alert to the video match officials inside the video operation room whenever the ball is received by an attacker who was in an offside position at the moment the ball was played by a team-mate.

Image: The official match ball will have a sensor placed inside it (pic: Adidas)

Before informing the on-field referee, the video match officials validate the proposed decision by manually checking the automatically selected kick point and the automatically created offside line, which is based on the calculated positions of the players’ limbs. This process happens within a few seconds and means offside decisions can be made faster and more accurately.

Image: The World Cup trophy on display in Qatar

After the decision has been confirmed by the video match officials and the referee on the pitch, the exact same positional data points that were used to make the decision are then generated into a 3D animation that perfectly details the position of the players’ limbs at the moment the ball was played.

This 3D animation, which will always show the best possible perspectives for an offside situation, will then be shown on the giant screens in the stadium and will also be made available to FIFA’s broadcast partners to inform all spectators in the clearest possible way.

Analysis: New technology is a major step forward

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Former referee Dermot Gallagher express his excitement for the new Semi-Automated technology FIFA have released ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher told Sky Sports:

“I think the news is very exciting. When you see a major change like this, it brings a new dawn to football and a new way of playing. It’s going to bring accuracy, and as well as that it’s going to speed everything up, which is what everybody wanted.

“We’ve seen situations in the Champions League and the Premier League where very tough offsides took time due to the complexity of them.

“This will eliminate most of that, which has got to be a good thing. I think the referees will honestly embrace it. It’s so accurate and the problem with the VAR they currently have is the start point, which is when the ball is kicked.

“The ball then travels a long distance and you have to find out where the attacker is in relation to the defender and it takes time – we’ve seen that.

“This constantly tracks the ball and the player. It knows instantly at what point the ball is played and where the defender was in relation to the forward.

“In the 30-35 seconds it takes in the Premier League to decide if there’s an offside, that’s now going to be down to one second. It’s going to be projected quickly to the fans inside the stadium, which eliminates the doubt in their minds quickly. It’s a major step forward.”

Collina: Faster and more accurate decisions

Image: Pierluigi Collina refereed the 2002 World Cup final

Chair of FIFA referees committee Pierluigi Collina:

VAR has already had a very positive impact on football and we can see that the number of major mistakes has already been dramatically reduced. We expect that semi-automated offside technology can take us a step further. We are aware that sometimes the process to check a possible offside takes too long, especially when the offside incident is very tight. This is where semi-automated offside technology comes in – to offer faster and more accurate decisions.

“The testing has been a major success and we are very confident that, in Qatar, we will have a very valuable support tool to help referees and assistant referees make the best and most correct decision on the field of play. 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.”

When and where is the 2022 World Cup?

The 2022 World Cup is taking place in Qatar in the winter months rather than the usual summer ones, due to the heat.

The tournament kicks off on Monday November 21 at the Al Thumama Stadium when Senegal take on the Netherlands in Group A, with England vs Iran being the second game of the tournament in Al Rayyan. That game is followed by hosts Qatar against Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium.

England finish Group B with games against the USA on Friday November 25 and versus Wales on Tuesday November 29 following Wales’ progression via the play-offs.

The knock-out stage begins on Saturday December 3.

The final will be played at the Lusail Stadium in Doha a week before Christmas on Sunday December 18.

Source : Sky Sports