Technology Powers Offside Refereeing in Football

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The arrival of technology for me was a problem. I was not against goal-line technology but I was against further technology, because you begin with goal-line technology but then you have to have offside technology, penalty technology — and that is the end of football for me. If you have 10 offsides each side per game, then 20 times the game has stopped. It would be a disaster if it goes further. Football is an ongoing game.”                                    – Michel Platini, Chairman, UEFA

Well, this indecision and scepticism of adopting goal line technologies for football is nothing new. As of June 2015, FIFA’s quality programme website states that only 33 stadiums – of the 300+ stadiums in the world – have licensed GLT installations, all of which use either the Hawk-Eye or Goal Control 4D systems.

While high cost of GLTs is a prime driver of the scepticism against employing GLT in football, there is a strong point that Platini points out. Most disputes occur in the offside and for fouls, which FIFA prefers assistant referees to resolve by training a hawk’s eye on spot penalty-areas.

Assistant referees in the European Pro Leagues (EPL) use letters on advertising boards or objects in the crowd on the opposite side of the pitch to position themselves when judging the offside. These types of reference points are unreliable and the assistant referee may not be sure of a decision if he is positioned directly opposite a chosen reference point, since the players are moving dynamically.

It was just last week that Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey suffered an incorrectly chalked off goal against Liverpool in the EPL. During the first half, the midfielder was in line with the Liverpool defence when Santi Cazorla played the ball through, but despite finishing smartly inside Simon Mignolet’s near post, he turned to see the assistant referee Simon Bennett with his flag raised. Replays suggest he was onside but obviously the linesman thought it was offside. What does one do to rectify such situations?

And again as Platini points out, if there is GLT, then there has to be more technology that monitors the entire field. An integral fair-play enforcer is required in the offside, and that’s precisely what this blog is all about.

New offside technologies

The Offside Detection Device, which was recently employed at the Soho Square in London, claims to be a foolproof system comprising a series of prismatic lights that are visible only to the assistant referee when he or she is positioned directly opposite the light. The lights give the assistant referee a perpendicular guide helping them position themselves accurately.

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The patent describes a graph sound that is produced when a player kicks the ball. The ball will include a lightweight sensor within to track its movement. Figure 5 illustrates a flag handle that indicates the line and allows a referee in the offside to instantly signal a foul play. Source: Patent EP 1944067 A1

A graph sound is produced when a player kicks the ball. The ball is fitted with a lightweight sensor to track its movement. A flag handle indicates the offside line and allows the referee to instantly signal a foul play. Source: Patent EP 1944067 A1

Tests in Norway have proven that the system can reduce errors in offside decisions by as much as 50%. Unlike prominent GLTs, this system does not make the decision for the assistant referee, but offers a reference point without interfering with the laws of the game.

Patent EP 1944067 A1 holds the key to such technology. Describing a method to detect an offside situation, this patent speaks of a system that determines whether an offensive player is behind a line. The line is determined by the last defensive player of the other team and thus moving the moment that the ball is kicked. The patent’s method allows for an observable signal that is generated the moment the ball is kicked or touched by a player. This allows the assistant referee to sight the offensive player with ease, improving fair play in football.

A Norwegian team of inventors have created another offside fair play enhancing technology. The image below illustrates its working using two teams dressed in black and white. Observe the green, orange and red lights on the top.

It can be said that the misjudgement of Frank Lampard’s 2010 World Cup goal pretty much set the stage of FIFA to look into fair play technologies. With such technologies now available for the Goal Line and Off-Side, it’s a matter of time before fair play technology in football becomes a boon for players.

(Featured image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_Zealand_goal.JPG)

Gadi Pavan
Gadi Pavan

There’s some connect that Pavan has with “tele”. He is flabberghasted by what’s ‘tele’cast on ‘tele’vision, believes ‘tele’pathy keeps him bound to friends and ‘tele’porting is a philosophy that grabs his attention. In the melee of this ‘tele’, he blogs about sporty technologies.


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