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Football Reporting


Robot VAR offside disallows first goal at FIFA Club World Cup

FIFA’s ground-breaking new limb-tracking VAR offside technology disallowed its first-ever goal at the Club World Cup on Thursday ahead of its roll out at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Alameri Zayed thought he had scored his second goal of the game in first-half stoppage time for Al-Jazira of the United Arab Emirates against AS Pirae of Tahiti in their first-round tie, but the VAR technology ruled the striker was marginally in front of defender Alvin Tehau. Al-Jazira were already 3-0 up at the time and went on to win 4-1.

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The semi-automated system, which aims to massively reduce the time it takes to make an offside decision and provide clear visualisation for supporters, is in the final stage of live trials at the Club World Cup in the UAE. It has been extensively tested across several FIFA tournaments, including the Arab Cup in December.

It is hoped that the new graphics, which move the camera in line with the incident — much like Hawk-eye’s goal-line technology — will remove much of the misunderstanding around offside decisions.

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The VAR no longer manually places lines on the broadcaster’s television pictures, with the new system using dedicated cameras and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Twelve cameras are installed under the stadium roof to track the players using up to 29 data points at 50 times per second. This is processed in real time and sent automatically to the VAR. It means most offside calls could be made in seconds rather than minutes.

The AI-based technology uses automated ball detection and creates three-dimensional models of a player’s position instantly. It improves the accuracy of the kick point, another great area of controversy, using tracking data and sensors.

It is planned to replace the current offside technology being used by the Premier League, and all major domestic leagues, by the start of the 2023-24 season.

Alongside its use for VAR, the technology will be able to completely recreate a match as a virtual animation with only a few seconds’ delay, allowing coaches, players and other support staff to watch a game or any specific incident from any vantage point.

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