Precision, speed, clarity…Why semi-automatic offside is a welcome novelty

DECRYPTION – Referee novelty of the 2022 World Cup, the semi-automatic offside technology should prove beneficial. Both for the actors and the followers.

This is the novelty of refereeing for the 2022 World Cup. Experienced for a little over a year, and in particular set up during certain Champions League group stage matches, semi-automated offside detection technology (SOAT) will be used in each World Cup match in Qatar. An innovation that should prove beneficial for referees and players but also for spectators and television viewers.

Technology combining cameras, sensors and 3D animations

Concretely, how does it work? Until now, to analyze a fuzzy offside situation, an operator placed lines on images to help video assistant referees define whether a player’s position was legal or not. In Qatar, officials will be able to rely on technology that “uses 12 cameras placed on the roof“allowing to determine the exact position of each player through”29 data points checked fifty times per second“including”relevant extremities and limbs», explains FIFA. At the same time, the official ball of the competition is equipped in its center with a sensor which “sends data to the viewing room five hundred times per second”, which offers the possibility of knowing the exact moment when it is played.

All of this data is combined and the new technology, using artificial intelligence,automatically transmits an offside alert to the video refereesevery time a player finds himself in an illegal position. When the various referees – those placed on video and the central – confirm the decision, this positional data is then “transposedin a 3D animation that “will always show the best possible angle“, specifies the international body of the round ball.

More speed and precision in the decision…

This semi-automated offside detection technology has several undeniable advantages. First of all, it will bring a real saving of time. “One of the criticisms of VAR is the time required for image processing and decision making. There, we will save time because the decision will arrive, as its name suggests, almost automatically“, clarified at the end of September at a press conference, the French central referee Clément Turpin, selected for the World Cup. According to Benoît Millot, who will also be on the trip to Qatar, but as a video assistant, this progress should “perhaps allow the general public to have a joy – or conversely a disappointment – more spontaneous“.

But it will also make it possible to gain certainty in the decision. Previously, the choice to place the lines in such places rather than others could vary the decision, with the consequences that go with it. Now, that will no longer be the case. “There, with the cameras, the points captured on the players and the sensor in the ball, we are really on high precision“, also assured at the end of September Jérôme Brisard, also selected for the 2022 World Cup as a video assistant referee.

…And a gain of clarity and confidence for the followers

In addition, the spectators, on the giant screens of the stadiums, and the television viewers, on their screen, will have access to 3D animations generated by the technology which “will allow with very visual and very clear plans to show if one of them is in an offside position», as Clément Turpin said. This should result in a real gain in terms of clarity. But also trust. Indeed, as Jérôme Brisard points out, since “it will be managed by a computer which will calculate multiple points and no longer by a referee who will randomly place a line on an image», decisions should no longer suffer from so many disputes. In short, obvious benefits that should positively change the game. To be clear, you will have to watch the first matches of this 2022 World Cup, which will begin this Sunday with the match between Qatar and Ecuador (5 p.m.).


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