New offside technology to make debut at 2022 Qatar World Cup

Semi automated offisde technology (SAOT) will debut at 2022 World Cup in Qatar. /FIFA
Semiautomated offside technology (SAOT) will debut at 2022 World Cup in Qatar. /FIFA

FIFA announced Friday it will implement a new offside technology at this year’s World Cup to help video match officials and on-field referees make faster and more accurate decisions.

Following a series of successful tests, FIFA’s semiautomated offside technology (SAOT) will make its World Cup debut in Qatar in November.

FIFA estimates the technology will help to cut decision-making time on offsides from an average of 70 seconds using current video review methods down to between 20 and 25 seconds.

The SAOT, which was tested at the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup and 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, is an extension of the video assistant referee (VAR) system, currently in use at all FIFA competitions.

The system relies on 12 cameras installed underneath the roof within each stadium, all perfectly synchronised with each other.

Optical tracking data looks at 29 data points on each player, covering their limbs and extremities, plus the position of the ball, 50 times per second.

The official ball in Qatar, Al Rihla, will be equipped with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor, which will send ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second.

For offside situations, kick points and positions of players’ limbs will be relayed to the VAR in real-time, with the use of artificial intelligence.

Before informing the on-field referee, the video officials will manually check kick point and offside line, both automatically generated.

Once the call is made, the exact same positional data points provided to officials will be generated into a 3D animation, featuring details on the position of the players’ limbs at the moment the ball was played. This 3D animation will be displayed on the stadium scoreboard and will also be made available for television viewers.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino says SAOT is an evolution of the video-assisted-referee (VAR) system that has been used around the world.

“FIFA took the brave step to use VAR technology on the world’s biggest stage, (the 2018 World Cup) and it has proven to be an indisputable success”, he said. “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”.

Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee agrees.

“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.

“We are aware that sometimes the process to check a possible offside takes too long, especially when the offside incident is very tight. This is where semi-automated offside technology comes in – to offer faster and more accurate decisions.”


Story compiled with assistance from FIFA and wire reports