Semi-automatic offside is tested at the FIFA Club World Cup™ (www.FIFA.com) in the United Arab Emirates; Limb tracking technology provides accurate data to referees in seconds; 3D animations show the offside decision on giant screens in the stadium
FIFA has conducted further successful tests of semi-automatic offside technology (SAOT) during the FIFA Club World Cup™ 2021 in Abu Dhabi along with 3D animations shown on the big screen in the stadium and on television providing viewers a better understanding of offside decisions.
After being successfully tested at the FIFA Arab Cup™ last year, testing on SAOT’s implementation is ramping up ahead of its expected use at the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar.
SAOT has been used to assist on-field referees with tight offside decisions on a number of occasions during the FIFA Club World Cup™.
FIFA Referees Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina and FIFA’s Technology and Innovation team demonstrated the technology at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium on Wednesday.
“We continue with a test to try to achieve the goal: to have more precise decisions and also faster decisions in offside incidents,” Collina said.
“I know someone called it “robot offside”; It is not.”
“The referees and assistant referees remain responsible for the decision on the field of play. The technology just gives them valuable support to make more accurate and faster decisions, particularly when the offside incident is very tight and very difficult.”
SAOT is an extension of the VAR system that is already used in 47 countries around the world and in more than 100 competitions, including all FIFA tournaments.
Ten dedicated cameras, as well as several broadcast television cameras, are installed throughout the stadium to track 18 data points on each individual player, providing their position on the field.
The number of data points is expected to increase to 29 points per player when the FIFA World Cup™ takes place.
This data, collected 50 times per second, is then transmitted to an AVAR specifically dedicated to offside decisions to verify and make their recommendation to the VAR and referee on the field.
This process occurs in real time and therefore means that decisions on offside calls can be made within seconds.
“We’re also tracking limbs, we’re tracking arms and legs, and we know exactly where all those players are at every moment of the game,” FIFA Head of Football Technology Sebastian Runge explained.
“We’re tracking at 50 frames per second, so 50 times per second we know where the players are and we’re getting that information into the system.”
This combination allows to evaluate if a player is onside or not. FIFA is also testing the use of 3D animations that clearly illustrate when a player is on or offside.
“We have introduced an offside animation, which is not related to the decision-making process, but certainly offers a better understanding and a clearer view of the offside/onside decision,” said Collina.
“So once the decision is made, this kind of animation starts to play out, and a few seconds later it can better show what happened than using normal 2D lines.”
These animations are created after the offside decision is made to provide a clearer image for fans watching on TV and in stadiums.
“With semi-automatic offside, we get data points, and these data points can be translated into an animation,” Runge said.
“So, we know where the shoulder is, we know where the knee is, for example. And by taking that data, we can go into the 3D world and we can create animations, which can perfectly explain if a player was on, how much of that player was off or on, and we put that into an animation that will be shared with TV and our giant screen operators and we can inform viewers in a clearer way about offside and inside decisions”.
FIFA will continue to test these innovations in other FIFA competitions throughout this year.
“We know it’s not easy to be fast and precise at the same time, if you want to be precise you need time,” said Collina.
“That’s why we thought of a technology that can do [the most] accurate and quick decisions possible.”
(Other languages will be published on FIFA.com soon)