FIFA to track players’ bodies using AI in World Cup 2022
The AI system will provide referees with more information to help them make decisions.
FIFA, the international governing body of association football, has announced that at the 2022 World Cup, AI-powered cameras will assist referees in making offside calls.
What does the system include?
The semi-automated system includes a sensor in the ball that relays its location on the field 500 times per second, as well as 12 tracking cameras mounted beneath stadium roofs that use machine learning to track 29 points on players' bodies.
When players commit offside offenses (that is, when they are closer to the other team's goal than their second-last opponent and receive the ball), the software will combine this data to generate automated alerts. Alerts will be sent to officials in a nearby control room, who will validate the decision and inform the referees on the field of the call.
How does it detect it?
This process, according to FIFA, will take "a few seconds and means that offside decisions can be made faster and more accurately."
The data generated by the cameras and ball will also be used to create automated animations that will be shown on stadium screens and in TV broadcasts "to inform all spectators in the clearest possible way" about why the call was made.
It is the most recent example of a sport embracing automated technology to assist referees in making decisions. At the 2018 World Cup, FIFA introduced VAR, or video assistant referee, which allows referees to review decisions using sideline monitors.
In a press statement, Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, said the new system would allow officials to make “faster and more accurate decisions,” but stressed that humans — not “robots” — were still in charge of the game.
“I know that someone called it ‘robot offside’; it’s not,” said Collina. “The referees and the assistant referees are still responsible for the decision on the field of play.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said, “This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing to provide the very best for the teams, players and fans [...] 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.”
Where is the 2022 World Cup?
The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, making it the first time a World Cup has been held in an Arab country. To avoid the heat of Qatar, the tournament will be held from November to December, rather than in the summer, as is customary.
The decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar has been widely panned. According to a Department of Justice investigation, top FIFA officials were bribed to award the tournament to the Arab country.
Numerous investigations by organizations such as Human Rights Watch and media outlets such as The Guardian revealed that Qatar's stadiums were built by migrant workers who were effectively treated as slaves, with their passports confiscated and their wages suspended.
According to a 2021 investigation, at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as a result of harsh working conditions (such as a lack of access to water) since the country was awarded the World Cup in 2010.
The first four games of the 2022 World Cup will be played on November 21, with England taking on Iran and the United States taking on Wales (all teams in Group B).