How Artificial Intelligence will help referees at the 2022 World Cup


VAR is used only for "clear and obvious errors" or "serious missed incidents" in four match-changing situations: goals; penalty decisions; direct red-card incidents; and mistaken identity.

VAR is used only for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents” in four match-changing situations: goals; penalty decisions; direct red-card incidents; and mistaken identity.

SuperSport viewers on DStv and GOtv will be counting down the days to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, with the tournament set to run from 21 November to 18 December and provide the most thrilling distillation of ‘The Beautiful Game’.

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to help referees in making their decisions at the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the world governing body having been testing the use of limb-tracking offside technology, which uses AI along with a series of cameras around the stadium to follow players’ movements and instantaneously create virtual offside lines for referees.

The technology has so far been used at the Club World Cup and FIFA Arab Cup, and FIFA expects it to be used in Qatar 2022.

Given that Video Assistant Referees (VAR), which was first used at a World Cup at Russia 2018, remains a controversial and relatively unpopular element in the modern game, there are naturally concerns about the addition of another layer of technology, AI, in the decision-making process.

However, Dr. Patrick Lucey, chief scientist at sports data firm Stats Perform says that FIFA’s approach when it comes to limb-tracking is spot on.

He says that rather than a fully-automated decision, the AI is used to give precise measurements and create the offside lines that before would have to be drawn manually. This removes human error, but ultimately the decision is still made by humans.

The referee or assistant referee can look at the image created by the AI and know straight away if a player is offside, but the human official can also use their own judgment to decide whether that player is interfering with play or if there is any other reason why the goal should be given or not.

Dr. Lacey says this approach combines “getting humans to do what they do really well and getting computers to do what they do really well”. That’s why FIFA’s referee committee chair Pierluigi Collina says this is not “robot offside”.

With the line drawing being taken care of by computers, the accuracy and speed of a VAR decision in regards to offside will be far quicker – thereby helping to remove one of the major criticisms of VAR.

Making the decisions quicker and more accurate suggests that this AI element will enhance VAR and hopefully make it a less obtrusive and controversial element, allowing us fans to focus on the players’ actions rather than those of the officials!

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