Football: this is why VAR technology is not accurate enough in judging offsides

Football: this is why VAR technology is not accurate enough in judging offsides

The application of the solution has already been questioned by many experts.

New research from the University of Bath used motion capture technology to assess the accuracy of the video assistant referee (VAR) system used in football. VAR has been found to be useful in preventing obvious refereeing errors, but not accurate enough to always make accurate judgments. VAR was introduced in football in 2018 to help referees review decisions on goals, red cards, penalties and offsides. The technology uses video footage from pitchside cameras, which means VAR operators can watch the action from different angles and then offer their insights on the events to the referee, who makes the final decision. However, the accuracy and application of VAR has been questioned by many experts, citing that the use of the technology can lead to controversial decisions that can change the course of the game. Critics of VAR also argue that it hinders continuous play, while some research suggests that the method has reduced the number of fouls, offsides and yellow cards.Dr Pooya Soltani from the University of Bath’s Center for Motion Analysis, Entertainment Research and Applications (CAMERA) used optical motion capture systems to assess the accuracy of VAR technology. He recorded a soccer player receiving the ball from a teammate from different camera angles, while recording the 3D position of the ball and the players using optical motion tracking cameras. Participants watching the clips had to determine the exact moment of the kick and judge whether the player receiving the ball was offside. The study found that participants thought the ball had been kicked an average of 132 milliseconds later than measured by optical motion capture cameras. They also found that participants judged the situation more accurately when the action was viewed from 0 and 90° angles and when VAR lines were present in the footage. Dr. Soltani presented his results at the 40th International Society of Sports Biomechanics (ISBS) conference on July 20, 2022. The researcher said that VAR is really useful in helping referees make accurate decisions, but this study showed that the method has definite limitations. The frame rate and resolution of the cameras used in VAR can sometimes not keep up with the fast movements, meaning that the player or the ball is sometimes blurred. Thus, the observer must rely on his own judgment to extrapolate where the players were at the moment the ball was kicked, which affects whether the given situation was a stoppage or not.”In my research, the ball was kicked 132 milliseconds earlier than the participants perceived, which doesn’t sound like much, but in a fast-paced match, this can be long enough for the players to be elsewhere and thus potentially change the outcome of the offside. This it shows that, while VAR is useful for spotting obvious mistakes, it should not be fully relied upon to make refereeing decisions,” said Soltani. According to the study, the accuracy of VAR could be improved by using higher speed cameras, which would show the ball moving slower when played at normal speed due to the higher frame density. In addition, for offside decisions, thicker guide lines could be used in the VAR to represent the zone of uncertainty. Accuracy could be improved by viewing the game from multiple angles. Dr. Soltani believes that the use of higher resolution and speed cameras and volumetric motion capture approaches would improve the accuracy of VAR, but would be much more expensive. “Whether the referee is right or not, I think that the referee’s final decision adds flavor to the game,” the researcher concluded.

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