Champions League to use Semi-Automated Offside Technology from the group stage

UEFA has announced that it will start using the new Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) from the Champions League group stage this season.

It will also be in place for the UEFA Super Cup when Real Madrid play Eintracht Frankfurt on April 10, with Premier League referee Michael Oliver appointed to the game.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based system will replace the VARs manually linking lines across the pitch to players and selecting when the ball has been kicked. It is intended to make decisions quicker and more accurate while also providing improved visualisation for fans.

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A sensor will be placed in the centre of match ball, recording data 500 times a second to detect when the ball has been kicked. All players will be mapped to create an AI model of their position -- a similar method to goal-line technology.

The time needed to make a VAR offside decision should be reduced from an average of 70 seconds to 25, while fans inside the stadiums and viewers watching on television will be provided with a 3D animation to clearly show the offside.

FIFA announced on July 1 that the technology had been approved for use and it was expected that World Cup would be the first major competition that would feature it. FIFA trialled it in its competitions for the last three years, culminating in live tests at the Club World Cup in Qatar in February when Alameri Zayed of Al-Jazira was the first player to have a goal disallowed using SAOT.

At the same time, UEFA has carried out a total of 188 tests since 2020, including all matches in last season's UEFA Champions League, the knockout stage of the UEFA Women's Champions League and the Women's Euro 2022.

"UEFA is constantly looking for new technological solutions to improve the game and support the work of the referees," said Roberto Rosetti, UEFA's chief refereeing officer. "This innovative system will allow VAR teams to determine offside situations quickly and more accurately, enhancing the flow of the game and the consistency of the decisions.

"The system is ready to be used in official matches and implemented at each Champions League venue."

Offside decisions should only take longer than the average of 25 seconds if they involve multiple offside elements, or if there is a more complicated subjective aspect such as the attacking player interfering with play.