FIFA officially announced that it will be using semi-automated technology for offside calls during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar later this year. The technology will use a series of 12 tracking cameras mounted inside the stadiums that will track the ball’s position on the pitch, while also tracking each player’s position up to 50 times per second, including the positions of each player’s limbs.
They’ll combine that with a sensor placed in the center of the ball, which will send data for analysis on each offside call to determine if a player was indeed in front of or behind the ball at the time it was kicked.
The video assistant referees will receive alerts with all the applicable data when a decision needs to be made about an offside play, at which point the VAR will validate the play by reviewing the visual data sent by the tracking system, at which point they’ll relay the information to the head match referee. Once the decision is made, there will be a 3D animation of the play displayed on the stadium screens so fans can see how and why the decision was ultimately made.
It’s not the first time FIFA has introduced new technology just before a World Cup, as goal-line technology was implemented ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after a costly error by the referee in England’s match against Germany where replays showed Frank Lampard’s shot clearly crossed the goal line but was disallowed by the ref on the field.
FIFA took the technological advances further when they introduced manual video review of plays back in 2018, which gave the head referee a chance to pause the match and review a clip of the play in question on a screen before making a final decision. While many feel video reviews can take far too long, this move by FIFA is intended to help move things along and make quicker decisions about offside calls that can often be incredibly close.
The semi-automated offside technology has been in development for several years, and has been tested at the FIFA Club World Cup earlier this year, as well as the Arab Cup in Qatar at the end of last year.