Semi-Automated Offside Technology
FIFA introduced Semi-Automated Offside Technology, SAOT, to a global audience at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. By combining player and ball tracking technology with Artificial Intelligence (AI) software, FIFA added a sophisticated electronic tool to Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in order to enable more accurate offside calls.
The SAOT system utilizes 12 tracking cameras, mounted on the roof of a stadium and dedicated solely to offside decisions, which track 29 physical data points on each individual player all over the field, and the location of the ball, via a sensor implanted in its center. Data is transmitted to the video operations center at 50-times per second for each of the players and at 500-times per second for the ball.
Historically, when VAR was used to help determine an offside call, it took an average of 1-minute and 10-seconds for video match officials to reach a decision. SAOT itself provides an alert almost instantaneously which the video match officials then validate and can be quickly transmitted to the on-field officials. Decision-making was cut to roughly 25-seconds. However, sometimes, extended delays were encountered.
The alert is based on the application of Law 11 – Offside, using an automatically determined “kick point” for the ball, an automatically calculated “line of offside” for the next-last defender, and a determination if the attacker who received the pass was beyond the offside line at the moment the ball was played.
SAOT creates a visual depiction of the offside scenario in freeze-frame animation, generating a three-dimensional representation showing the details of the position of the players’ body and limbs and the location of the ball. In stadiums where large spectator screens are available this animation can be broadcast, together with television viewers.
As a matter of process, if a video match official does not agree with SAOT result, they can manually select a kick point and line of offside. Similarly, the referee is still the final arbiter. For example, if “interfering with an opponent” is involved, it is still up to the referee to apply the appropriate judgement call.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
- Coaches and players need to understand Offside and how the rule is applied in the real world of games with human officiating crews. Very few will ever be associated with SAOT.
© Copyright, John C. Harves