GENEVA (AP) — FIFA will introduce new technology to improve offside calls at the World Cup in Qatar this year, using a member tracking camera system.
FIFA said on Friday it was ready to launch semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) which uses multiple cameras to track players’ movements as well as a sensor in the ball – and will quickly display 3D images on stadium screens during the tournament to help fans understand the referee’s call. .
It’s the third World Cup in a row that sees FIFA introduce new technology to help referees.
Goal-line technology was ready for the 2014 tournament in Brazil after a notorious refereeing error in 2010. In 2018, a video review to help referees judge game-changing incidents was rolled out in Russia.
The new offside system promises faster and more accurate decisions than those currently made with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, although the 2018 World Cup avoided major errors on offside calls.
Controversy has since erupted across European leagues, particularly when VAR officials draw on-screen lines at players for fringe calls. They were mocked for “armpit offside” because of the small margins.
“Although these tools are quite precise, this precision can be improved,” said Pierluigi Collina, who runs FIFA’s refereeing program and worked the 2002 World Cup final in the pre-tech era.
Each stadium in Qatar will have 12 overhead cameras synchronized to track 29 data points on each player’s body 50 times per second. The data is processed with artificial intelligence to create a 3D offside line which is alerted by the team of VAR officials.
A sensor in the match ball tracks its acceleration and gives a more accurate “kick point” – when the assist is played – to line up with data from the offside line, the manager said. FIFA innovation Johannes Holzmüller during an online briefing.
Ensuring football’s biggest event is a showcase of technological progress – and avoids the obvious mistakes that endure in World Cup tradition – is a long-standing goal for FIFA.
England’s Frank Lampard’s shot that crossed the German goal line in 2010 but was not scored as a goal almost immediately ended then-president Sepp Blatter’s opposition to the award technological aids to referees.
Later the same day in South Africa, a clearly incorrect offside allowed Carlos Tevez to score Argentina’s first goal in a 3-1 win over Mexico in the round of 16.
In 2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to make it out of the group at their first World Cup after Edin Dzeko’s first goal against Nigeria was wrongly ruled offside. Nigeria won 1-0.
FIFA’s efforts to prepare new offside technology for the World Cup have been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Live trials took place at the Arab Cup in Qatar last December and the FIFA Club World Cup took place in February in the United Arab Emirates.
Within seconds of a possible offside, a specialist member of the VAR team can manually check the line created by the data for attackers and defenders and the kick point of the pass, Holzmüller said.
It is the responsibility of the VAR manager to alert the match referee of the correct decision through his audio link. This should take 20-25 seconds compared to the current average of 70 seconds for a complex offside.
“Sometimes review check times are definitely too long,” Collina said, acknowledging that delays disrupt the flow of games. “For (the VAR officials), time flies, but for the rest – for the coaches, for the players, for the spectators – it’s completely different.”
The same 3D animations of offside calls that the VARs will use should then be available to broadcasters and played on stadium screens, likely during the next stoppage of play.
Collina is enthusiastic about the technology, less so about the oft-used description of “robot umpires.”
“I understand that sometimes it’s very good for headlines but it’s not,” the Italian official said, defending the key human element in decision-making in football.
Collina also agreed that improving technology will not end football’s love of controversy and debate over key incidents.
“There will still be room for discussion,” he said.
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