How will Semi Automated Offside technology impact Scottish football?

Des Roache believes Celtic and Rangers will be impacted more by the system but admits officials will never rely on technology.
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Former category one official Des Roache believes the introduction of a new Semi Automated Offside technology in Scottish football won’t decrease fan abuse directed towards referees.

FIFA announced last month that the system will be used at the World Cup in Qatar later this year to enable referees to make faster, more accurate offside decisions.

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According to world football’s governing body, the SAOT system uses 12 tracking cameras mounted underneath the roof of a stadium to track the ball and up to 29 data points of each individual player at 50 times per second.

The data collected by the cameras and the ball sensor will be processed by artifical intelligence within a matter of seconds to check the offside decision and if detected it will provide an autmodated alert to the video match officials.

Once the decision has been confirmed by VAR and the referee on the pitch, the technology will then generate a 3D animation to be displayed on the screens within the stadium and on TV to give the fans a greater insight into why the decision was made.

Roache is adamant football will not stretch to the same level as a FIFA video game, insisting refereeing will always have a human element despite the introduction of automated decision.

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However, he accepts referees always have to deal with criticism aimed at them from the stands.

He told “I would never like to think that refereeing would be replaced by technology, that’s not how the game works. We’re not sitting at home playing a game of FIFA.

“There has to be a human element to refereeing, so I have no doubt about the future of referees. Football is a game of scale and error and refereeing is a game of scale and error.

“The less errors you make as a player the higher you’ll go and the less errors you make as a referee the higher you go.

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“It’s all about the interpretations of referees and assistant referees. If I make a wrong decision and someone else can tell me it’s correct then I’ll go with that 100% of the time.

“There is nowhere to hide now because this new technology with 500 clips a second is getting used. If it corrects factual decisions then it can only be for the good.

“Fan abuse of referees won’t decrease because of the technology, that will always be there.

“If a goal goes against you or a decision goes against you, fans will always find someone else to blame other than your own team. Referees always get it.”

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Roache detailed why he believes the two Old Firm clubs will be impacted more by the decisions that are made correctly or wrongly but claims the Scottish FA won’t use the system until it has been tested vigorously.

He added: “Celtic and Rangers are predominately the attacking team in games and are in the oppositions penalty box most of the time.

“Therefore, there is more chance for VAR to be used for offside, penalty kicks etc. Whether it goes for or against them.

“New technology will come in at the top level of FIFA competitions and UEFA competitions. Possibly the English Premier league. It will certainly not be in Scotland for a while. Bearing in mind it has taken the Scottish league three, four years to get VAR.

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“The Automated offside technology would need to be trialled vigorously. Everyone would need to be confident with it and comfortable with it. It will be a trial and error process.

“The experts that produce the technology are very clever and very good in what they do so I can imagine there is a high percentage of them making the correct decisions but it is something that needs to be thoroughly tested.”

Roache is against the notion that referees are now reyling too much on technology to make big calls.

He stated: “I don’t think so. We are using technology to make it better. If something is not clear and obvious, if the referee is the only person in that stadium that doesn’t see something but everyone else does then it has to be overruled.

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“Everything else should be open to interpretation. It can’t be 1 against 60,000. If you’re the only person that’s making that error then it has to be corrected, so use technology to be better for the teams and for the referees.”

*Des Roache is a regular on GET INVOLVED REFEREE!, the podcast presented by Lindsay Herron alongside former grade one referee Steve Conroy and current amateur referee Dougie Gunning.

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