Semi-automated offside technology to track players at 2022 soccer World Cup
Soccer's international governing body, FIFA, has developed semi-automated offside technology that uses AI, stadium cameras and a connected match ball to assist on-field referees with offside calls at 2022 World Cup matches in Qatar.
The offside rule in soccer is a complicated one that can occasionally lead to disputes with the referee.
Essentially if an attacking player runs forward into the other team's half of the field to receive a ball from a teammate, that player needs to have at least two opponents ahead of them – usually a goal-keeper and a defender – unless the ball comes directly from a goal kick, throw-in or corner.
And players can adopt an offside position on the field without falling foul of the referee so long as they don't actually affect what happens in the match. There's much more to this though, as you can read yourself in IFAB's Law 11 document.
FIFA previously introduced Video Assistant Referee technology at the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia – where cameras around the field fed footage to monitors in an off-field operations room to assist with decisions made by the on-field referee during a match – and has been working to improve the setup in the years since.
The semi-automated offside system heading for Qatar later this year has already been successfully trialed at test events and FIFA tournaments, and judges offside calls by employing 12 tracking cameras mounted at various points under a stadium's roof to work out the precise location of an individual player by capturing up to 29 data points – including "all limbs and extremities" – at 50 times per second.
The balls used for FIFA World Cup 2022 matches will also offer some technological assistance courtesy of an inertial measurement unit at their center that will wirelessly send data to an operations room at 500 times per second, where player-tracking and ball-tracking data will be examined by artificial intelligence systems.
Automated offside alerts are then received by match officials in the operations room, who inform the on-field referee. The system is also able to generate a 3D animation showing the position of the players' limbs when the ball was played, which will be made available to FIFA's broadcast partners and displayed on stadium screens "to inform all spectators in the clearest possible way."
"At the FIFA World Cup in 2018, FIFA took the brave step to use VAR technology on the world’s biggest stage, and it has proven to be an undisputable success," said FIFA's president, Gianni Infantino. "Semi-automated offside technology is an evolution of the VAR systems that have been implemented across the world. 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."