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This Technology CHANGES the Game

4 minute read Published June 25, 2024

What an opening to the Euros. Great goals, like the Arda Guler one against Georgia. Insane last second equalisers and winners, like Italy’s yesterday or Hungary’s against Scotland. Too bad that there’s no more day game, but we soldier on. 

There have also been some changes to the game. Let’s have a look at them and how they could affect club football in the future. 

Semi-Automated Offside Technology

The big one of course, is the Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT). If you’re not aware, offsides in the Euros are semi-automated, meaning a computer calculates whether a player is offside or not. This was also used at the World Cup in 2022 but has yet to be implemented in any leagues. UEFA introducing it in this competition may change that.

What has allowed this is two things. First, the “Connected Ball Technology” from Adidas. The ball in the competition have sensors built in. Second, there are 12 new tracking cameras mounted in the stadiums. The cameras record 29 points on a player, 50 times a second. For every player, every second.

They work together in a few ways. Of course, the exact position of the ball can be recorded and, crucially, the sensors in the ball also knows when the ball has been struck. This eliminates the problem for the referees of determining which recorded frame the player making the pass actually touches the ball. That’s two problems solved. Thanks to this, a computer can calculate whether the attacking player was offside or not.

Daniele Orsato calling an offside. Photo: Fabrizio Andrea Bertani, via Shutterstock.

The change is great. The calls are way more precise and there is less debate around them. Actually, there’s pretty much no debate. They’re also a lot quicker. UEFA has said that an official evaluation will be made after the group stages. Initial analysis, though, points to huge time savings, more than half the time. From around 70 seconds, down to 30.

The way VAR has been calling offsides in club football, by drawing lines on freeze frames suddenly feels very old school. Even though it was introduced just five years ago.

Hand Ball

The sensors in the ball that knows when, and more importantly in this case, if it has been struck. We’ve seen it used to determine handball. Of course, all balls that touch a hand isn’t automatically breaking the rules. 

Lukaku has had three goals disallowed by VAR, in two games. Photo: Marco Iacobucci Epp, via Shutterstock.

We saw this in the Belgium game, when Openda touched the ball with his hand. The sensors clearly showed the hand had touched the ball. However, he was both impacted by the Slovakian defender and not affecting the trajectory of the ball. Lukaku’s goal was disallowed. So, while the technology is useful, it doesn’t solve all VAR challenges.

Club Football

Will this come to club football then? Well, yes and no. I will at least not become standard right away. UEFA seem to really like the technology though. The Champions League will use the technology. If the national football associations consider the technology a success, we may very well see it in the leagues as well.

Arsene Wenger has been proposing a change to the offside rule for some time now. The new rule would make the attacker onside as long as any part of his body is still in line with the last defender. First, this would give attackers a bigger advantage leading to more goals. Second, according to Wenger and other advocates, it would make it easier to enforce. It’s hard to see how though. The same exact issue would still arise, it would still be a discussion of millimetres. 

These millimetre decisions wasn't what the offside rule was meant to be. It was just to stop attackers from parking it in the opposition box at all times. But, now that we have it, this is the only way to do it. The SAOT has shown that it’s not the offside rule in itself that’s the problem. It’s the enforcement of it. 

Lastly, here’s hoping that they start including diving in the VARs responsibilities.

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