After an initial series of semi-automated offside line technology tests conducted during the FIFA Club World Cup ™ in December 2019 in Qatar, FIFA organized a new demonstration. In view of the current travel restrictions, FIFA has invited members of the Innovation and Excellence working group to participate in an online video conference that marks the third step on the road to 2022/23.

Following the successful implementation of Video Arbitration Assist (VAR), which was introduced into the Laws of the Game in March 2018, FIFA now wants to improve technology at all levels of the football pyramid. In particular, it plans to develop semi-automated technology to signal offside, in order to provide the VAR with additional information that will simplify the decision of the referee and optimize image analysis.

On June 22, members of the Innovation and Excellence working group were able to attend a remote demonstration of a technology offered by one of FIFA’s technology providers. One of the competing companies presented a semi-automated system to the fifty participants, based around the globe. The group was able to learn more about the evolution of this technology and ask specific questions. The supplier, who is already using a FIFA-certified offside virtual line (VOL) system, reviewed several aspects of the development process, as well as the technologies involved. The objective here is to propose a semi-automated decision as soon as possible, so that the arbiter on the ground can better judge the disputed situations.

(Credit Image: ChryonHego)

The best possible assistance

One of the difficulties associated with the development of an offside line technology concerns the accuracy of the automatic detection of the point of contact. The supplier presented several solutions, such as the use of sensor tracking data or video data from camera systems. In addition, the system must identify the parts of the body that make a player offside or not. Precision tests have shown that human operators tend to choose different parts of the body when placing the line. Progress has also been made in this area. The automatic system is thus able to learn to correctly identify a player’s anatomy. In the future, system algorithms should be able to automatically determine which part of the body is responsible for offside and where it is located.

“Our mission is to develop a tool comparable to technology on the goal line. It is not intended to make decisions itself, but to provide the referee with instant proof,” explained the organizers. Of the reunion. FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) have always maintained that the final decision should be made by the referee; technology is only there to provide the best support possible. FIFA and the various players also questioned how best to expose these situations to supporters in the stadium and in front of their television screens.

“These events are a good opportunity for the working group to better understand the complexity and advancement of new technologies. We also see it as a forum to discuss the latest innovations in football, in direct contact with the industry,” said Johannes Holzmüller, Director of FIFA Football Technological Innovations.

The next meeting of the working group is scheduled for early July. Other tests and presentations are already scheduled for the second half of this year.