The introduction of the VAR was a real revolution, even though it did not solve all the problems and did not exclude the possibility of an error in evaluating a single episode. On one field, though, the technology that helped the refs was especially helpful for the offside.
Thanks to the cameras, it is much easier to understand if a player is offside and to make all the subsequent evaluations (interference in the game, possible touches by the defender, etc.). The only point of controversy is the difficulty in identifying the moment in which the player passes the ball or the moment in which the position must be evaluated. However, to help, FIFA has tested and approved the latest novelty, the semi-automated offside.
It is a system of 10 or 12 video cameras installed in stadiums and connected to a series of sensors that can pinpoint the exact location of each player on the field 50 times per second.
The software will then process this data, including the “kick point,” or the precise moment of the pass, and present it to one of the referees at the VAR, whose specific task is to deal with offside. Offside is called “semi-automated” because it is still up to a referee on the field to tell his colleague on the field what the result of the check was.
A crucial point for the International Federation’s referee manager, Pierluigi Collina, who does not want to hear about offside… robots.
The crux of the issue is decision-making speed, which is one of the VAR’s weak points. In fact, it’s not unusual for seconds or even minutes to go by while the images are looked at and the exact moment the ball is hit is figured out. This has led to a big drop in the average effective playing time.
With the new system, on the other hand, compared to the waiting minutes to annul Benzema’s goal in the final in Paris, it will take very little time to establish whether a player is offside or not, limiting longer analyses only to complicated situations, in which they will evaluate other situations in the field. Nevertheless, to whistle a “simple” offside without doubts, it could take a maximum of twenty seconds.
Like all the innovations proposed by the IFAB, the board that deals with changes and innovations to the rules of football, the semi-automated offside has been tested in various competitions. At the beginning, the tests were in the youth leagues, but the last ones, also very satisfactory, took place during the Club World Cup.
FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, said that insiders liked the change a lot and that the technology was the same as that used for Goal Line Technology, which has also changed the way people bet on football. This makes it likely that fans will accept the software’s decision even if it is only semi-automated.
The introduction was held in Qatar, and the situation was the inverse of that of VAR, which was first used in some championships before being swept away by France. In any case, some tournaments have already explained that they are very interested in using the innovative tool.
The most important championship on the list is certainly the Premier League, which will have to wait until the 2023–24 season to change its rules.