Premier League to use semi-automated offside technology from next season

The big screen shows the VAR decision of no goal for Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech after team-mate Romelu Lukaku is judged to be offside during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. Picture date: Saturday February 19, 2022. (AP via PA)

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

England’s top-division clubs announced Thursday they reached a unanimous decision on the introduction of semi-automated offside technology, saying the new system is set to be launched during the first half of the season.

“The technology will provide quicker and 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 in-stadium and broadcast experience for supporters.”

Semi-automated offside technology was used at a World Cup for the first time 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 set to be more aligned with the system used by UEFA in the Champions League.

The Premier League is due to announce more details on the exact nature of the offside technology that will be used once contracts are signed. Extensive testing and analysis has been conducted this season.

Semi-automated offside technology is already in use in Italy’s Serie A.

Multiple cameras will track player movements and record data points on parts of the body that are relevant for an offside decision. Data is processed with artificial intelligence to create a 3D offside line that is alerted to the team of VAR officials.

It is expected to take an average of around 30 seconds off the length of time it currently takes VAR officials to come to a decision manually, and improve confidence in decision-making after some high-profile mistakes.

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

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