FIFA has said that they will automate offsides calls. The world governing body of soccer stated they will be using sensors embedded in the balls used at the Qatar World Cup 2022, in conjunction with other inputs, to help make offsides calls. The announcement, which was made in July, stated that the technology was still being tested and that although the system will be run by humans the technology will be able to overturn or confirm both calls and non-calls on plays that lead to a goal or penalty cutting the review time for such calls in half.
Pierluigi Collina, the well-respected retired referee (he of the building eyes and the bald head), is today the chairman of FIFA’s Referees Committee, and in explaining the new technology’s use he said “the average length of time for an offsides review is 70 seconds and this technology will reduce that to less than 25 seconds.” Furthermore, he said, the system’s margin of error is similar to that of goal-line-technology, “a few millimeters.” The technology was used in a Club World Cup game where it caught that “the left knee of a goal scorer was marginally ahead of the last defender when the pass was made, rendering him offsides.” Thus FIFA has tested their technology to automate offsides calls and feels it is ready for the World Cup.
FIFA has been using the ball sensors in combination with a limb-tracking technology based on a dozen or more specialized cameras mounted high up in stadiums which are able to track 29 points on the body of each player and collect location data on each of a player’s limbs 50 times per second. This combined with the IMU* sensors in the balls, which transmit a ball’s inertial data 500 times per second, via in-stadium antennae which will relay the information to an off-site replay center. There, artificial intelligence will process the data in real time and relay the information to the VAR officials who will in turn relay the information to the on-field referee. This combination will automate offsides calls while leaving humans in control.
The replay officials will, as always, review and affirm every decision and the on-field referee will retain final decision-making power, but they will all be able to make decisions based on kick-point and offside line information which will be relayed automatically and almost immediately. In addition, once a decision is made, the technology will generate animated 3D replays that will be shown to all in stadiums and on TV allowing fans to know what happened sooner. The long-term objective was to have the technology in place by the 2022 World Cup.
The technology was developed via the input of a number of “leading universities throughout the world” and though it will not solve all problems it will be an improvement in both the level of accuracy and in cutting the time lag between action and final whistle. It is expected that some European domestic club leagues and the Champions League will implement the technology by 2024.
*IMU stands for inertial measurement unit, which is an electronic device that can measure and reports a body’s specific force, angular rate, and orientation, using accelerometers and gyroscopes. Wikipedia Commons.
Photo: Pierluigi Collina, FIFA, Shutterstock Photo ID: 213944431, Sodel Vladyslav