How technology will help referees at the FIFA Women’s World Cup

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system is designed to help officials make the right decisions at the FIFA Women’s World, and will be available at all 64 games.

FIFA say the system will be the same used at the 2019 tournament in France, and will be helped by a new form of in-stadium communication that’s been used at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco last December, and at this year’s FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup.

Main photo: VAR will be used to help officials in four types of situation.

In which situations will VAR be used?

  • Goals and infringements leading to a goal.
  • Penalty decisions and infringements leading to them.
  • Straight red cards (not second yellows or bookings).
  • Cases of mistaken identity

The video match officials will be on duty at every match: a video assistant referee (VAR), who will be in communication with the referee on the pitch, and two assistants (AVARs), one of whom will be in charge of offside decisions.

What does a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) actually do?

Here’s a two-minute YouTube video produced by FIFA to explain the role of VAR:

There are two ways in the VAR can operate. The first is in reviewing objective situations in which there is no room for interpretation, such as determining offside and whether a foul has been committed inside the penalty box or not.

The second is when the VAR recommends to the referee that they review an incident on the pitchside monitor. This is usually the case with subjective decision and personal interpretations of the Laws of the Games, such as the seriousness of a foul or whether a handball should be punished or not.

Once the referee has reviewed the incident and made a final decision, they will announce it to the spectators and TV viewers on a microphone. They will also provide additional information, such as the infringement committed, the player responsible and a brief description of the incident.

Semi-automated offside technology

To help video match officials detect offsides, 12 dedicated tracking cameras will be installed at every stadium hosting matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

These cameras are synchronised and track the ball and up to 29 data points of each individual player, 50 times per second, calculating their exact position on the pitch.

The 29 collected data points include all limbs and extremities that are relevant for making offside calls.

An inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor positioned inside the official adidas ball, OCEAUNZ, sends ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second, allowing a very precise detection of the kick point, which is vital to determining offsides.

By combining the limb-and-ball-tracking data and applying artificial intelligence, the technology can identify the exact position of players on the pitch when the ball is played and provides an automated offside alert to the video match officials.

The AVAR validates the information provided by the system and the VAR communicates the decision to the referee on the pitch.

Once the decision has been taken, a 3D animation is generated to provide a visual explanation of the offside decision.

How the 3D animation works

FIFA have made the following YouTube video to explain …

Effective playing time

To reduce time wasting and ensure more playing time at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, referees will attach more importance to calculating added time.

Time lost because of substitutions, injuries, red cards, penalties, goal celebrations and the use of VAR will be compensated for at the end of each half.

Referees are encouraged to restart play quickly after fouls, free-kicks, throw-ins and goal-kicks to prevent any unnecessary delays that interrupt the flow of the game.

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