By Matt Davies For Mailonline
The World Cup gets underway this weekend, and whether you’re a fan of it or not, VAR will once again take centre-stage, with semi-automated offside technology to be in use in Qatar.
Video Assistant Referee technology became a significant point of conversation at the 2018 World Cup, with the tournament proving to be the catalyst for its widespread implementation across European football.
But while it was a largely successful introduction, there were still a number of controversial incidents that left the fans enraged – perhaps none more so than France’s crucial penalty, converted by Antoine Griezmann, in their 4-2 win over Croatia in the final.
VAR was largely successful at the 2018 World Cup but there were still a number of controversial moments
FIFA estimates their new technology will help to cut decision-making time on offsides down
Referee Nestor Pitana spent several minutes in front of the VAR screen following a clearly accidental handball from Ivan Perisic – and, to the surprise of many watching on, he eventually penalised the Croatian. Roy Keane, as you can probably imagine, called the decision ‘disgusting’.
Four years later, and VAR is just as controversial as ever, with fans still left exasperated by the length of time it takes to make a decision. There is often a lack of clarity regarding the decision itself. And, more importantly, the final decision is still not always the correct one.
However, having hailed its use at the 2018 World Cup, FIFA President Gianni Infantino believes further improvements will be on show in the coming weeks. Sportsmail breaks down just how it will work below.
The World Cup will follow the Champions League by implementing a semi-automated offside system at the impending tournament.
The system utilises 12 dedicated cameras dotted around the stadium which track both the ball and 29 data points on each individual player. There is also a sensor in the World Cup ball, which we’ll touch on more below.
The lead VAR will then manually validate both the kick point and the offside line and communicate what they see with the on-field referee. FIFA stress this process will take just a few seconds.
Importantly, once a final decision has been made, a 3D animation – which FIFA state will ‘perfectly detail’ the correct position of the players’ limbs at the exact moment the ball was played – will be played both on the screens in the stadium and to those watching from elsewhere.
Semi-automated offside technology will be used at the World Cup in Qatar this winter
FIFA first received demonstrations of semi-automated offside technology in 2019 and trialled it at the Arab Cup in Qatar last year and the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year. Some testing also took place at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.
Of course, offsides aren’t the only decisions both the on-field referee and VAR will have to make throughout the matches.
The VAR will also support the on-field referee in the following ‘match-changing scenarios’: Goals and offences leading up to a goal; penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty decision; direct red card incidents only (not second yellow cards), and mistaken identity.
FIFA insist those in the stadium and those watching from elsewhere will be informed regarding the review process, the outcome of the review and why that decision has been reached.
The new system relies on 12 cameras installed underneath the roof within each stadium. Optical tracking data looks at 29 points on each player, covering their limbs and extremities
The ball will play a key role in the new semi-automated offside system, as calculating exactly when it was kicked is a crucial factor in getting any offside decision correct.
The World Cup ball, named Al Rihla, will house a sensor which transmits data to the video operations room 500 times per second.
This technology will allow the offside system to both track the limbs of each player and also the precise ‘kick point’ in real time using artificial intelligence.
As stated, the lead VAR will manually validate both the kick point and the offside line after receiving an automated alert.
Infantino believes that the latest development will lead to a significant improvement of the game.
The 52-year-old in 2018 insisted VAR would be the ‘end’ of wrongly-standing goals which should have been ruled out for offside.
He also insists the systems in place so far have been an ‘undisputed success’. The new and improved model will prove even more beneficial, he says.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino believes the new implementation will improve football at all levels
‘Semi-automated offside technology is an evolution of the VAR systems that have been implemented across the world,’ he said in July.
‘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.
‘FIFA is committed to harnessing technology to improve the game of football at all levels, and the use of semi-automated offside technology at the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is the clearest possible evidence.’
The Premier League could reportedly introduce semi-automated offsides from next season.
According to The Times, the process, which will be voted on by Premier League teams after the World Cup, is seen as a big improvement on the current system due to its efficiency.
The Premier League is set to use an automated offside system from the start of next season
There would, course, be a cost implication in adopting the software should the Premier League opt to go in that direction.
However, nine teams in the England’s top flight – being the Champions League clubs plus Manchester United, Arsenal, Brighton, Southampton and Nottingham Forest – already have at least basic Hawkeye infrastructure in place which would allow for easier installment of the equipment required.
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