Limb tracking technology helped officials make the right decisions at the FIFA World Cup 2022™.

After the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology was successfully used at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ in Russia, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in The Vision 2020-23 that the company would work towards utilizing the technology’s full potential.

But just what is VAR? And how does it work?

In this article, we go over:

“At the FIFA World Cup in 2018, FIFA took the brave step to use VAR technology on the world’s biggest stage, and it has proven to be an undisputable success. Semi-automated offside technology is an evolution of the VAR systems that have been implemented across the world.
“This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing to provide the very best for the teams, players, and fans who will be heading to Qatar later this year, and FIFA is proud of this work, as we look forward to the world seeing the benefits of semi-automated offside technology at the FIFA World Cup 2022.
“FIFA is committed to harnessing technology to improve the game of football at all levels, and the use of semi-automated offside technology at the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is the clearest possible evidence.”
– Gianni Infantino, FIFA President

What is Video Assistant Referee?

VAR has been used in major men’s professional soccer and FIFA tournaments before. The main VAR in the video operating room has two or three assistant VARs helping, alongside two or three video operators.

The main VAR reviews video footage and determines if, in their opinion, on-field officials have made a “clear and obvious error”. The VAR then makes a recommendation to the main center official, so they can review their decision at the video monitor near the pitchside or just accept the VAR’s verbal recommendation.

But what does the VAR check for?

  1. Direct red card. Red card challenges or potential red card challenges are always automatically reviewed.
  2. Goals. The VAR determines whether there were fouls on the lead-up to the goal, office before the goal, or ball in/out that may have been missed.
  3. Mistaken identity. VARs also review if cards were given to the wrong players.
  4. Penalty decisions. Potential fouls are reviewed when it comes to offense, location, the tackle, and whether it’s inside or outside the penalty area.

What’s offside in soccer?

In soccer, offside is when the attacking player is on their opponent’s half of the field, closer to the goal line than the second-to-last opponent, and the ball is either first touched or played by a teammate. The attacking player also becomes involved in the play and interferes with an opponent or gets an unfair advantage by being in the offside position.

There are two areas that complicate this, being exceptions to the rule when it comes to deliberate versus deflection plays by defenders. This resets the moment when the offside position is determined and how tight decisions can be.

Tight calls are decided by the semi-automated offside technology.

What is semi-automated offside technology and how does it work?

VAR 2.0 includes limb tracking tech, which tracks players’ body parts and the exact moment a ball is kicked. There are 12 cameras dedicated to tracking as many as 29 data points of each player, 50 times per second, so they can calculate someone’s exact position on the field.

This tech minimizes the claims of human error on those tight offside calls, as it automatically lets the VAR know when footage needs reviewing. A 3D graphic is created to prove the offside decision to viewers at home and fans in the stadium.

The World Cup’s ball, Al Rihla, has a sensor placed inside – this inertial measurement unit (IMU) sends ball data to the video operation room 500 times a second, for extremely precise detection of the kick point.

This combination of limb and ball-tracking data, alongside artificial intelligence, alerts the video match officials inside the video operation room whenever the ball’s received by attackers in an offside position when the ball was played by a teammate.

The video match officials validate the proposed decision, manually checking the automatically selected kick point and the created offside line – based on calculated positions of players’ limbs.