The FIFA World Cup 2022 will include an updated VAR (video assistant referee) system known as semi-automated offside technology, according to the international soccer governing body.
SAOT will replace FIFA’s old (and still contentious) VAR system, which debuted at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The new system includes 12 stadium cameras that will track both the ball and each individual player’s position, as well as 29 different data points on each player’s limbs and extremities.
In addition, each match will feature a ball equipped with a motion sensor, which will provide real-time data on a player’s position at the time the ball is kicked.
SOAT, according to FIFA, will assist match officials in making faster and more accurate decisions on offside calls. “VAR has already had a significant positive impact on football, and we can see that the number of major errors has been significantly reduced.”
In a statement, FIFA Referees Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina said, “We expect semi-automated offside technology to take us a step further.”
The new system, according to ESPN, should reduce the average time it takes to make a VAR offside decision from 70 seconds to 25 seconds. The old VAR system required drawing offside lines and calculating kick points by hand.
SOAT, according to FIFA officials, will automatically select both the offside line and kick point in seconds, using data from the ball as well as limb-tracking data from the cameras.
Each decision will then be manually confirmed by human officials. Following each decision, a 3D animation depicting the offside decision will be shown to spectators.
While it may appear risky to introduce a completely new virtual referee system at a global event such as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a more basic version of SOAT was tested at last year’s Arab Cup in Qatar and this year’s FIFA Club World Cup.