Almost three years after its introduction to the Premier League, VAR still divides opinion among football fans.  Technology is currently not accurate enough to give accurate offside decisions in football, in part due to the way humans look at the data, a new study suggests.

VAR not accurate enough to give accurate offside decisions in football, study finds

Almost three years after its introduction to the Premier League, the video assistant referee (VAR) still divides opinion among football fans.

The cutting-edge video technology has won praise from some, but has also seen its fair share of disasters along the way, with debate over its effectiveness and whether it slows game speed still raging.

Now, a new study has waded in, and it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

The researchers suggest that VAR is currently not accurate enough to give accurate offside decisions in football, partly because of the way humans look at the data.

Dr Pooya Soltani, who led the study, said: “While VAR is useful for spotting obvious errors, it should not be relied upon entirely to make refereeing decisions.”

The research will be music to the ears of Match of the Day experts Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer, who have both questioned the technology’s effectiveness following several controversial decisions.

Almost three years after its introduction to the Premier League, VAR still divides opinion among football fans. Technology is currently not accurate enough to give accurate offside decisions in football, in part due to the way humans look at the data, a new study suggests.

Experts conducted an experiment (pictured) and found that on average a person watching footage of a pass thought the ball was kicked 132 milliseconds later than it actually was

Experts conducted an experiment (pictured) and found that on average a person watching footage of a pass thought the ball was kicked 132 milliseconds later than it actually was

That's long enough for players to be in a different spot and could therefore potentially change offside results, the University of Bath researchers said.

That’s long enough for players to be in a different spot and could therefore potentially change offside results, the University of Bath researchers said.

WHAT IS VAR?

The Video Assistant Referee is a system that involves several highly trained match officials who have access to a range of different camera angles and playback speeds.

The small team of skilled referees watch the game away from the pitch, safely locked in a room casting an eagle eye over every element of play.

They communicate with the referee on the field of play via a two-way radio.

The referee must consult the VAR — only then does the process of analyzing an incident begin.

VAR can’t just review everything they want during the game.

The referee draws the outline of a TV screen in the air so everyone knows what is going on and VAR is ready to use.

During a pitch review (OFR), the referee also leaves the pitch to watch replays on a pitchside monitor.

VAR was introduced to the Premier League in 2019 to examine ‘clear and obvious errors’ in four game-changing incidents: goals, penalties, consecutive red cards and mistaken identity.

The technology uses footage from pitchside cameras, meaning VAR operators can view the action from different angles and then offer their judgment on incidents to the chief referee to make a final decision.

VAR critics further argue that it hinders the flow of play, but some research suggests it has reduced the number of fouls, offsides and yellow cards.

In the new study, researchers from the Center for Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research and Applications at the University of Bath used optical motion capture systems to assess the accuracy of VAR systems.

Dr. Soltani filmed a football player receiving the ball from a teammate, seen from different camera angles, while recording the 3D positions of the ball and players using optical motion capture cameras.

Participants viewing the clips were then asked to determine the exact moment of the kick and judge whether the receiver of the ball was in an offside position.

The study found that, on average, participants thought the ball was kicked 132 milliseconds later than it actually was, as measured by optical motion cameras.

He also found that participants were more accurate in their judgments when the action was viewed at 0 and 90° angles, and when VAR guidelines were present.

The cutting-edge video technology has won praise from some, but has also seen its fair share of disasters along the way, with debate over its effectiveness and whether it slows game speed still raging.

The cutting-edge video technology has won praise from some, but has also seen its fair share of disasters along the way, with debate over its effectiveness and whether it slows game speed still raging.

The research will be music to the ears of Match of the Day experts Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer, who have both questioned the effectiveness of the technology following several controversial decisions.

The research will be music to the ears of Match of the Day experts Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer, who have both questioned the effectiveness of the technology following several controversial decisions.

Dr Soltani said: “VAR is really useful in helping referees make accurate decisions, but this study has shown that it has definite limitations.

“The frame rate and resolution of the cameras used in VAR sometimes don’t keep pace with fast movement, which means sometimes the player or the ball is out of focus.”

“So the viewer must use their own judgment to extrapolate where the players were at the time the ball was kicked, which affects whether it is offside or not.

“My research revealed that the ball was thrown 132 milliseconds earlier than participants perceived, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but in a fast-paced game it could be long enough for players to be in one place. different and could therefore potentially change the offside results.

The study suggests that for marginal offside decisions, thicker guidelines in the VAR could be used to represent the zone of uncertainty.

Accuracy could also be improved by viewing gameplay from multiple angles, the researchers said.

Dr Soltani added: “Using higher resolution, faster frame rate cameras and volumetric motion capture approaches would improve the accuracy of VAR, but would be much more expensive.

“Whether good or bad, I think the referee’s final decision adds flavor to the game.”

He presented his findings at the 40th Conference of the International Society for Biomechanics in Sport.

VAR YOU SERIOUSLY REF? WATCHING FOOTBALL FOULS IN SLOW TIME HELPS REFEREES MAKE BETTER DECISIONS BUT DOES NOT MAKE THEM MORE LIKELY TO SEE FAKE PLAY

Slow-motion VAR replays during football matches do not impact a referee’s decisions by making the incidents appear more intentional, according to a 2021 report.

Psychologists have said that slow motion actually helps referees better distinguish between yellow and red cards in football matches.

The controversial VAR, or ‘video assistant referee’, system has been a constant topic of discussion in the UK since it was introduced in the Premier League in August 2019.

But by recruiting a sample of real professional football officials, the researchers claimed to have strong evidence that VAR actually helps in making the right decision.

Read more: Watching football fouls in slow motion doesn’t affect a referee’s decision, study finds

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