World Cup

How does VAR at the 2022 World Cup work?

Max Parsons
VAR is being used for the second time in World Cup history
VAR is being used for the second time in World Cup history / James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages

Love it or hate it, it's here.

The Video Assistant Referee system has received a mixed bag of reviews over the past few years but, whether we like it or not, it will be in use for the second time in World Cup history this winter.

Following its introduction to football's biggest stage in 2018, the 2022 World Cup will feature the controversial tool - as well as something a little bit different.

How does VAR at the 2022 World Cup work?

VAR in Qatar will work exactly the same as you'd find anywhere else, annoyances and bemusements included.

In essence, the VAR team is there to support the referee in the decision-making process relating to four match-changing situations. Those are:

  • Goals and offences leading up to a goal
  • Penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty decision
  • Direct red card incidents only (not second yellow card/caution)
  • Mistaken identity

Throughout the action, the VAR team constantly checks footage - which they access through no fewer than 42 broadcast cameras of varying speeds - for clear and obvious errors which cover those four areas and communicate with the referee only in the event of clear and obvious mistakes or serious missed incidents.

Of course, it can be the case that the referee communicates to the VAR and suggests a review of a certain decision, although this is less common.

Once footage has been reviewed, the VAR will either agree with the referee's view of things or, should they pick up on something missed, will recommend an overturn, sending the referee to the pitch-side monitor where, more times than not, the decision goes the other way.

While VAR at the 2022 World Cup will follow the same process as we see in the Premier League, something novel will also feature in Qatar this winter...

What is semi-automated offside technology?

This new technology is a system designed to provide automated offside alerts to the video match officials team.

In theory, the 3D animation will improve communication to in-stadium fans and television viewers, while the technology itself will help on-field officials and VAR teams make faster and more accurate offside decisions.

The technology uses 12 tracking cameras, found underneath the roofs of each stadium, which follow the ball and up to 29 data points on each player, taking data 50 times per second to calculate their precise position on the field of play. Those data points include all limbs and extremities that are relevant in offside decisions.

The match ball, as well as looking pretty unreal, will play a vital role in this new offside technology with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor placed inside match balls. The sensor, which is positioned at the centre of the ball, sends data to the video operation room 500 times every second, allowing officials to know exactly at what point the ball was struck.

The combination of the limb and ball-tracking tech with the application of AI allows the new technology to give alerts to the video match officials inside the operation room whenever a forward receives a pass in an offside position.

The VAR will then review the alert and confirm the proposed decision by manually checking the
automatically selected kick point and the automatically created offside line, which is based on the tracking cameras' calculated positions of the players’ limbs. This process can take just a few seconds, meaning offside decisions can be made faster and more accurately.

Once all is confirmed, the in-stadium screens will feature a 3D animation, created courtesy of the data points on each individual player, showcasing the decisive moment in the offside call.

All very cool, eh?