World Cup 2022: FIFA’s new semi-automatic offside technology explained and how it will work with VAR

Technology and football have become increasingly linked over the past decade, with fans’ opinions still divided on the positivity of the relationship.

FIFA and UEFA have pioneered bringing more technical aspects into football matches, with a focus on helping referees make important in-game decisions.

Offside and unrecognized goals have accounted for the majority of controversial refereeing decisions in both club and international football, putting match officials under pressure.

Video assistant referees were introduced to top-flight football from the start of the 2017/18 season and despite its controversies, VAR is now at the heart of the game.

FIFA now plans to go one step further at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with the introduction of semi-automatic offside technology.

MORE: New offside tech at FIFA Club World Cup could eliminate human error from soccer referees

World Cup 2022: FIFA’s new semi-automatic offside technology explained

Qatar 2022 will be the first men’s FIFA World Cup to use semi-automated offside technology as part of a wider innovation plan at the tournament.

According to FIFA, the new system will “provide a tool for video match officials and on-field officials to help them make faster, more accurate and more reproducible offside decisions on the biggest stage of them all.”

The technology was tested at the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 and the FIFA Club World Cup 2021 before being rolled out later this year.

Off-field officials receive potential onside/offside warnings, with out-of-action decisions evaluated before being communicated to the on-field referee for a final decision.

3D animations on screens in the stadiums will also show fans how and why decisions are made, with an explanation for TV viewers.

How will the new offside technology with VAR work at the 2022 World Cup?

VAR systems are being deployed in Qatar, with the new semi-automated technology described by FIFA President Gianni Infantino as “an evolution of current VAR offerings”.

“This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing to bring the very best to the teams, players and fans traveling to Qatar later this year,” he said in a FIFA update.

The technology is more complex than the current VAR and offers more ‘eyes’ on the action to provide greater assistance to referees.

Twelve dedicated tracking cameras mounted in the stadium roof track the ball in play and up to 29 data points are placed on each player 50 times per second to calculate their precise position on the pitch.

These data points map every relevant point on a player’s body that can be considered active to create a complete picture of an offside decision.

In addition, additional cameras show the positions of the players and moving images of their bodies, while the new World Cup match ball also plays a role.

Inside every Al Rihla Official World Cup match ball is a sensor that sends data 500 times per second to the video operations room to pinpoint the point at which the ball hits.

Information about the chosen push-off point from the in-ball sensor, along with data points from cameras, provides the officials on the video team with an instant picture of the offside scenario, allowing for a faster decision.

MORE: Why the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar

When does the 2022 World Cup start?

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar begins on November 21st and ends with the final on December 18th.

Although the tournament is the first to be held in the northern hemisphere winter, it follows previous editions in terms of format, with a 32-team group stage from which the top two finishers of each group advance to the knockout rounds.

These 16 group stage teams meet in the round of 16, where the group winners play individual matches against the runners-up from other pools, which may be decided by overtime and penalties. The eight winners advance to the quarterfinals, from which four teams advance to the semifinals.

The two winning teams from the final four will contest the finals, while the losers will meet in a playoff match for third place.

  • group stage: 21 Nov-Dec 2
  • round of 16: 3rd-6th December
  • quarter finals: 9th-10th December
  • semifinals: 13th-14th December
  • Match for third place: December 17th
  • final: December 18th

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