FIFA World Cup 2022: What is Semi-Automated Offside Technology?

Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) will be utilised for the FIFA World Cup 2022, which begins on November 21 in Qatar, FIFA said earlier this year. FIFA has implemented a number of technological advancements, including goal-line technology in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Football in Qatar may very likely become more accurate in its refereeing decisions with the introduction of these technological advancements.

The semi-automated offside technology has been successfully tested in live FIFA competitions, including the FIFA Club World Cup and FIFA Arab Cup 2021 last year.

The innovative technology during these matches was able to support the video match officials by facilitating faster, more precise, and reproducible offside judgements.

What is Semi-Automated Offside Technology?

SAOT is a multi-camera system that can more accurately track players’ limbs and determine when the pass was made.

The new technology tracks the ball using 12 specialized tracking cameras positioned below the stadium’s roof and analyses up to 29 data points for each player, 50 times per second, to determine their precise location on the field. All limbs and extremities that are important for determining offside are represented in the 29 data points that were gathered.

Al Rihla will provide an additional essential component for detecting narrow offside occurrences, Adidas’ official match ball for FIFA World Cup 2022, since an inertial measuring unit (IMU) sensor will be inserted inside the ball. The kick point may be identified with extreme precision thanks to this sensor, which is located in the centre of the ball and feeds ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second.

With all the limb and ball tracking data and AI coming into play, this new technology provides automatic offside warnings to video match officials in the video operating room if an attacker is in an offside position at the moment the ball is played by a teammate receives the ball. Once the video match officials manually check it, they will inform the on-field referee. This whole process will be done in seconds and the offside decisions can be made even faster and more accurately.

After the confirmation by the video match officials and on-field referee, the decisions are then turned into a 3D animation that precisely depicts the players’ limb positions at the precise instant the ball was played. This 3D animation will then be exhibited on the stadium’s massive displays and made available to FIFA’s broadcast partners in order to notify all spectators as clearly as possible. It will always show the finest views for an offside situation.

3D Offside Animation
3D Offside Animation

How Fast is the Semi-Automated Offside Technology?

According to FIFA, the current average decision-making time for a VAR offside decision across all international events is 70 seconds. FIFA believes that it can be reduced to 25 seconds with the help of new offside technology.

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What Offside Decisions Should the SAOT Be Used For?

The technology enables the VAR to be informed of any potential offsides. However, in the event of one of the VAR-defined match-changing events, such as goals, penalties, or red cards, this information will only be verified and relayed to the referee on the field.

Therefore, the VAR will not notify the referee if an offside is found prior to a corner or a free kick that hasn’t been signalled by the assistant referee, and the offside will not be penalised.

What FIFA’s Board of Directors Have to Say About SAOT?

“We will have the semi-automated offside set-up with 12 cameras and the official match ball with connected ball technology in all stadiums at the FIFA World Cup 2022,” said FIFA Director Johannes Holzmüller. “The new technology will provide the video match officials with real-time offside alerts using artificial intelligence,” he added.

“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, and FIFA is proud of this work, as we look forward to the world seeing the benefits of semi-automated offside technology at the FIFA World Cup 2022,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

“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,” said Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee.

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