Human technology

New FIFA Club World Cup offside tech could eliminate human error from football referees

New automated refereeing technology is being tested in-game at the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup where Chelsea are hoping to claim their first-ever trophy in the competition.

The new replay system is dedicated to real-time offside decisions to create more transparency and less confusion during goal scoring events. The system includes limb-tracking technology using dedicated cameras installed in the stadium roof to create an animated three-dimensional structure of the players involved for precise examination.

When implementing the technology, FIFA says entire matches can be watched in virtual animation “with just a few seconds of delay”.

MORE: Club World Cup standings, schedule and highlights

“With semi-automated offside, we get data points, and those data points can be translated into animation,” said Sebastian Runge, head of football technology at FIFA.

“So we know where the shoulder is, we know where the knee is, for example. And taking that data, we can enter the 3D world and we can create animations, which can explain perfectly if a player was onside, how much of that player was offside or onside, and we’re putting that into an animation that will be shared with TV and our giant screen operators and we can let viewers know more clearly about offside decisions -game and overgame.

New offside technology at the FIFA Club World Cup

The technology has already been used to disallow two goals in the 2022 competition, including in the semi-final between Palmeiras and Al Hilal.

With Palmeiras leading 2-0 with 15 minutes remaining, goalkeeper Weverton missed a shot and Al Hilal’s Taher Mohamed netted the rebound. When using technology, Mohamed was correctly ruled offside upon delivering the initial shot, and the goal was ruled out.

MORE: Club World Cup prize money distribution

It was also used in the opening match of the tournament between Al-Jazeera and Pirae, with a goal for UAE side Al-Jazeera scratched by the new technology.

Is VAR still used for offside?

The current use of VAR to determine offside offenses on goalscoring events has not always served to resolve close plays. Human judgment and error is always a factor as the VAR official is required to mark and interpret the offside lines before making a final decision.

Given the difficulty of getting a perfectly perpendicular camera angle to the event, it is difficult for a VAR official to perfectly recreate the moment.

The new automated limb technology should allow for much better accuracy given that the entire game is virtualized and every body part is recorded in the animated realm.

The technology was first introduced in the Arab Cup 2021 which took place in December 2021, before it was used in the FIFA Club World Cup.