FIFA the world governeing body for Football which organises the World Cup every four years has announced that it will use cutting edge AI technology to analyse for one of the hardest infringements in the game to detect, ‘off-side’.
They will use a semi-automated system comprising of a sensor in the ball itself which relays its position on the pitch 500 times a second as well as 12 tracking cameras mounted underneath the roof of stadiums, which will use machine learning to track 29 points in each players’ bodies.
Software will combine this data to generate automated alerts about when players are deemed offside (this is when they are nearer to the other team’s goal than their second-last opponent and the instant a pass is made to them). Alerts will be sent to officials in a control room, who will validate the decision and tell the referee what call to make.
FIFA claims this process will happen within a few seconds and means that offside decisions can be made faster and more accurately than is currently done with VAR (Video Assistant Referees). The data generated by the cameras and ball will also be used to create automated animations, which can be played on screens in the stadium and in TV broadcasts to inform all spectators in the clearest possible way of why the call was made.
It is the latest example of sports embracing automated technology to aid referee decisions. FIFA previously introduced VAR, which allows referees to review decisions using sideline monitors, at the 2018 World Cup and this system is now used in most top tier leagues and tournaments around the World. We can expect this system to become common place too if it proves to be successful in Qatar.