Abu Dhabi Club World Cup: what is Fifa's new 'robo-ref'?

New technology will create animated replays to help referees make the right decision on offside calls

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Artificial intelligence will be used to help referees make the right offside calls at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi this month.

The technology works by placing a camera system under the roof of the stadium that tracks the movement of each of the players and the ball.

Up to 29 data points are created for each player, creating an animated skeleton of every footballer on the pitch.

A 3D recreation of events on the pitch can then be assessed up to 50 times a second to help officials reach the correct decisions.

“We strongly believe that access to this new data source can positively impact the game by optimising decision-making processes and increasing objectivity,” said Johannes Holzmueller, Fifa’s director of football technology and innovation.

“However, we are only at the beginning of this development journey and possible use cases need to be tested thoroughly to assess the capabilities with a view to eventual implementation.”

Fifa has confirmed the new system will be trialled at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, which kicks off on Thursday.

If the trial period is successful, the technology could become a permanent facet of top-level football.

European champions Chelsea will compete with clubs from across the world, including Brazilian side Palmeiras, hosts Al Jazira, Al Hilal and Egyptian champions Al Ahly for a place in the final of the Club World Cup on February 12.

Officials are now able to watch an entire match using virtual animation with only a few seconds’ delay.

Fifa claims the new system will provide access to the game from the viewpoint of any player on the pitch, enabling officials to have multiple angles to assess a situation before making a decision.

The limb-tracking technology was also used at the Fifa Arab Cup, held in Qatar in December.

Updated: February 01, 2022, 1:43 PM