Word Cup 2022: FIFA’s new semi-automated offside technology explained and how it will work with VAR

Technology and football have become increasingly connected over the past decade, with fan opinion still divided on the positivity of the connection.

FIFA and UEFA have led the way in introducing more technical aspects to football matches with an emphasis on referee support for important in-game conversations.

Offsides and disallowed goals form the majority of controversial refereeing decisions in both club and international football, with the game’s governing bodies under pressure to act.

Video assistant referees had made their way into top-level football since the start of 2017/18 and, despite the controversy, VAR is now at the heart of the game.

Now FIFA plans to take innovation a step further at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by introducing semi-automated ambush technology.

MORE: FIFA Club World Cup’s new offside technology could eliminate human error for soccer referees

FIFA World Cup 2022: FIFA’s new semi-automated ambush technology explained

Qatar 2022 will be the first FIFA Men’s World Cup to use semi-automated set-back technology as part of a wider plan to innovate the tournament.

FIFA says the new system will offer “a support tool for video match officials and on-field officials to help them make quicker, more accurate and more reproducible offside decisions on the world’s biggest stage all”.

The technology was tested at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup and the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup before being launched later this year.

Officials off the field will receive potential play/offside calls, with decisions evaluated outside the action before being communicated to the on-field referee for a final decision.

Fans will also be shown how and why decisions are made through 3D on-screen animations in stadiums with explanations to TV viewers.

How will the new VAR offside technology work at the 2022 World Cup?

VAR systems will be used in Qatar, with the new semi-automated technology described as an “evolution of the current VAR offering” by FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

“This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing to ensure the best for the teams, players and fans heading to Qatar later this year,” he said via a FIFA update.

The technology is more sophisticated than the current VAR and provides more ‘eyes’ on the action to give referees more help.

Twelve dedicated tracking cameras — mounted on the roof of the stadium — will track the ball in play and up to 29 data points will be placed on each player, 50 times per second, calculating their exact position on the pitch.

These data points will map any corresponding point on the player’s body that can be considered active to create a complete picture of an ambush.

Alongside this, additional cameras will determine players’ positions and moving images of their bodies, while the new World Cup match ball will also play a role.

Each official Al Rihla World Cup match ball will have a sensor placed inside it to send data to the video operations room 500 times per second to accurately estimate the point at which the ball is struck.

Information about the selected point of impact from the ball sensor, together with data points from the cameras, provides an instant picture of the set-up scenario to the video team officials and allows for faster decision-making.

MORE: Why the 2022 World Cup is being played in Qatar

When does the 2022 World Cup start?

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar begins on November 21 and ends with the final on December 18.

While the tournament is the first to be held in winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it follows previous editions in terms of format, with a 32-team group stage from which the top two from each group will advance to the knockout stages.

These 16 teams from the group stage will meet in the Round of 16, where the group winners will face the runners-up from the other groups in one-off matches that will be decided by extra time and penalties if necessary. The eight winners advance to the quarter-finals, from which four teams will advance to the semi-finals.

The two teams who won the last four will contest the final, and the losers will meet in a playoff match for third place.

  • Group phase: november 21-Dec. 2
  • Round of 16: December 3-6
  • Quarter finals: December 9-10
  • Semifinals: 13-14 Dec
  • Third place match: Dec 17
  • Final: 18 Dec

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