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Premier League to use semi-automatic offside technology

Reuters file photo
A VAR rating message is displayed on a large screen during a Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Brighton & Hove Albion, at The City Ground in Nottingham, England, on April 26, 2023.

The Premier League will use AI-based player tracking technology to make offside calls from next season, a move that should reduce the time it takes for referees to reach their decisions.

England’s top division clubs announced on April 11 that they had reached a unanimous decision on the introduction of semi-automated offside technology. They said the new system would be launched in the first half of the season.

“The technology will provide faster and more consistent placement of the virtual offside line, based on optical player tracking,” the league said, “and will produce high-quality broadcast graphics to ensure an enhanced stadium and broadcast experience for supporters.”

Semi-automated offside technology was first used at a World Cup in Qatar in 2022. For that tournament there was a sensor in the ball to track its acceleration, but that won’t be the case in the Premier League, which looks like it will better match the system used by UEFA in the Champions League.

The Premier League will announce more details about the exact nature of the offside technology that will be used once contracts are signed. Extensive testing and analysis has been carried out this season.

Semi-automated offside technology is already used in the Italian Serie A.

Multiple cameras track players’ movements and record data points on parts of the body relevant to an offside decision. Data is processed with artificial intelligence to create a 3D offside line.

This is expected to shave an average of around 30 seconds off the time VAR officials currently take to manually reach a decision, and improve confidence in decision-making following some high-profile mistakes.

The manual system will be available as a backup in the event of a failure of the semi-automatic technology.

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