For as long as any football fan cares to remember, the offside rule has continued to cause controversy. Indeed, speak to football supporters around the world and they will gladly regale the number of times that they have been hard-done-by following a supposedly incorrect offside decision.
Indeed, from the lower leagues of grassroots football to the biggest stage of them all, the FIFA World Cup, this particular ruling has for decades decided the outcome of hundreds of thousands of games around the globe. Needless to say, some incorrect decisions are costlier than others, which is why technology had to be introduced to save the integrity of the beautiful game. In theory, what this means is that the best team should win a match or a tournament, given that human error has been all but ruled out.
It goes without saying that this will, naturally, be good news for Brazil which is the favorite in the latest World Cup 2022 odds to win the tournament after being priced at +250. Interestingly, the event in the Middle East marks the first time that AI technology has been used in order to assist even further in the quest to make football void of all officiating mistakes when it comes to the offside law.
So, how does it operate, and more importantly, does it work?
The technology being used
Essentially, there are a dozen cameras that have been placed on the stadium roof that are used to keep track of the ball at all times as well as provide nearly 30 data points for every player. Basically, these data points are used to determine where a player is on the pitch with readings given fifty times during every second that passes over the course of 90 minutes. In other words, thanks to the intense scrutiny of the mounted cameras on the roof, a player’s position on the pitch is never in doubt which, as you can imagine, makes it all but impossible to issue the wrong call when it comes to being offside.
In the event of a particular decision being made, evidence reviewing the on-field call will be provided by the AI system situated on the stadium’s roof. The only thing left to do for the FIFA referees operating the VAR system is to approve the decision after reviewing the findings that the AI software has submitted. Once they are satisfied that it is indeed the right call, a 3D image will then be generated so that the watching world can better understand the reasoning behind the decision.
Is it foolproof?
The only way this system would not be effective is if the AI software, for whatever reason, malfunctioned or if the referees in the VAR room incorrectly interpreted the data that they were given. So yes, this new system is still open to the fallibility of humans but it does provide the most complete system yet in the fight against incorrect controversial decisions that turn out to be wrong.
Should it continue to produce impressive results in Qatar, then fans can certainly expect this semi-automated offside technology to be used in the best leagues in the world in the very near future.