From November 21 to December 18, the 22nd edition of the men’s football world cup will be held, organized every four years by FIFA. This competition is often an opportunity for the international football federation to test its new rules, and with the advent of digital, the new technologies it wishes to put in place.
Since 2010, FIFA has been experimenting with many technologies to help refereeing
June 27, 2010, Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein in South Africa, a round of 16 World Cup is being played between Germany and England. The Germans scored two goals early in the game and the English came back to score in the 37th minute of play. A minute later, Frank Lampard attempted a lob from around twenty meters, the ball hit the bar, bounced behind the goal line and the German goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer seizes it.
Despite English protests, the referee did not award a goal. However, on the images, no possible dispute: the ball went well into the cages, the goal should have been validated and the English should have equalized. Finally, Germany won 4-1 and qualified for the quarter-finals. This event will be the one that will start the debate on the introduction of technology to help referees validate a goal, even in situations of doubt.
Four years later, during the 2014 World Cup, goal line technology made its appearance. Using several sensors located behind the goal cages, the technology can recognize if the ball has indeed passed the goal line. The goal line technology will be used for the first time in favor of France during a pool match against Honduras.
During the 2018 World Cup, it was the turn of the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) to make its appearance. Numerous cameras placed all over the lawn make it possible to film the slightest act and gesture of all the players present. As soon as a decision is questionable, the referee stops the game and can ask his assistants to watch the video to validate or judge his decision. The referee himself can also view the images from the sidelines.
FIFA introduces a connected ball and semi-automatic offside
After the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, the one to be held in Qatar in 2022 will be no exception to the rule of testing new technologies. Indeed, FIFA validated and announced in a statementon July 1, 2022, the use of the “ semi-automatic offside » as part of the next World Cup. This tool had already been tested during the FIFA Arab Cup in 2021 and during the Club World Cup in 2022.
It makes it possible to establish the position of the players and the ball at any time in order to detect offside positions. 12 cameras placed on the roof of the stadiums will monitor up to 29 data points per player, 50 times per second. By combining this data and with the help of an AI, it will be possible to check when the pass was made and to determine the offside line. Note that the referee will be informed of the machine’s decision, which can then validate or invalidate it: this tool does not therefore replace the final interpretation, which remains at the discretion of the referee.
At the same time, the referees will also be able to rely on Al Rihla, the official ball of the 2022 World Cup. This will be connected: it will contain an inertial measurement unit sensor allowing the VAR to precisely detect the moment exactly where the ball was played. It is therefore thanks to this connected ball that the semi-automatic offside technology will be applicable.
Undoubtedly, technology is interfering more and more in the world of sport: during the SAS Global Forum 2022SAS announced the launch of the Batting Lab, a huge interactive room powered by AI, computer vision and IoT to help children improve their baseball skills.