The introduction of the semi-automated system aims to elevate refereeing standards at the premier Asian tournament.
The upcoming AFC Asian Cup in Qatar is set to feature the innovative Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT), previously showcased at the FIFA World Cup last year.
This marks the technology’s first appearance in a major Asian men’s football tournament.
Scheduled to run from January 12 to February 10, the AFC Asian Cup will see the SAOT system employed across all 51 matches.
This positions the AFC as the first continental football confederation to integrate such advanced technology in its premier men’s competition.
The SAOT system’s introduction is part of a broader strategy by the AFC to enhance the accuracy and integrity of the game.
This strategy is further emphasised by the full-scale implementation of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system throughout the Asian Cup.
The VAR system, which made its partial debut during the quarterfinals of the 2019 tournament, will now be a standard feature, ensuring a more fair and consistent application of the rules.
The SAOT operates using 12 high-precision cameras installed around the stadium.
These cameras are dedicated to meticulously tracking the position of players and the ball, focusing particularly on those body parts crucial for accurate offside decisions.
When the system detects a player in a potential offside position, it promptly alerts the VAR team.
The VAR officials then use the lines automatically generated by the SAOT system to judge the player’s position.
While the system provides valuable assistance, the final decision on offside calls remains in the hands of the VAR, who communicates the verdict to the on-field referee.
The same positional data utilised by match officials to determine offside rulings will be converted into detailed 3D animations. These animations will be displayed on the stadium screens and shared with television broadcasters, offering fans a clearer understanding of the decision-making process.
AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, in a statement, highlighted the significance of this technological advancement.
“Our Asian match officials are established as among the best in the world and the landmark debut of the Semi-Automated Offside Technology will only serve to drive them to set higher standards,” he said.
Sheikh Salman stressed the AFC’s commitment to leading global refereeing standards by embracing the latest technological innovations.
The comprehensive implementation of VAR, along with the introduction of the SAOT at the Asian Cup, is a testament to the AFC’s vision of providing an exceptional platform for players and teams, and an unprecedented assembly of match officials to excel and be recognized.