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How offsides are determined by VAR

7 Nov 2019
VAR screen Tottenham Hotspur

See how the Video Assistant Referee uses Hawk-Eye to make offside decisions

In this season’s Premier League, offsides are being determined by the VAR using Hawk-Eye’s virtual offside line technology.

This has two levels. 

Gridline

A two-dimensional line, which can be quickly positioned in line with the final defender for clear offside decisions.

Gridlines CHELIV
Crosshair

These are two lines that are positioned for the defender and attacker.

Offside crosshair example

The offside lines are drawn against the parts of the body of attacking and defending players that can be used to score goals. (These parts of the body are the same for all players, no matter their playing position)

The lines can also take into account parts of the body off the ground, such as a player’s shoulder, which is shown as a 3D vertical line.

VAR crosshair vertical
VAR Vertical component annotation

The positioning of the crosshair is manual with a line one-pixel wide so that the exact position of the offside line and the relevant body part can be accurately identified by the VAR.

The Premier League is unique in European competition in that the whole process is displayed to broadcasters so fans can see in real time how a decision is reached. 

To begin with the two lines are coloured yellow and black. In this state, the VAR can change the position of each line. These lines are not the final confirmed position.

When the VAR is 100 per cent happy with the position of the lines, the attacking line will change to red and the defending line will change to blue.

VAR confirmed lines

The vertical lines projected up to the relevant body parts are also coloured accordingly.

Only at this point are the lines confirmed and the VAR’s decision is final.

Once the lines are confirmed they are made thicker so they can be seen more easily on TV.

The thickness of the line has no impact on the accuracy of the decision. It is the edge further from the goal for each line that identifies where the one-pixel line was positioned by the VAR.

Calibrated cameras

Before each match, Hawk-Eye calibrates multiple cameras to give many options when showing an offside decision in the event that a body part is covered in one camera.

For the Premier League, five cameras are calibrated: the main wide camera, both 18-yard box cameras and both goalline cameras.

The example below shows how the defender’s foot cannot be seen on the 18-yard box camera as it is blocked by another defender’s body.

VAR 16-metre camera

Therefore the goalline camera was used as both the defender and attacking body parts could be clearly seen.

VAR goalline camera

Hawk-Eye can also use any broadcast camera to identify the point of contact with the ball by the attacker, and synchronises all cameras for this purpose.

The broadcast cameras operate with 50 frames per second, so the point of contact with the ball is one of those frames inside the 50 per second.

Pitch camber

Premier League pitches have a camber on the side of the pitch, designed to drain water. 

Before the season, the pitches are calibrated by Hawk-Eye, creating a 3D model of each of them, which is then maintained during the matches.

Hawk-Eye's offside line matches the camber of the whole pitch to ensure as accurate a decision as possible.

Why do VAR lines sometimes look not straight?

A lot of it is down to the camera angle and perspective. Unless a broadcast camera is perfectly in line with the last defender, the camera angle can make him appear to be further back or forward than he is in reality of the horizontal line drawn. 

In the photo below, Eric Dier's left knee is his body part that is furthest back, but the camera angle makes his head appear closer to the goalline.

TOTSHU Lundstram offside hi-res

This is also true of the vertical line drawn when with respect to gravity adjudging offsides. This will only appear straight if the camera is in line with the offside incident. 

They also don’t always appear perfectly vertical because TV cameras are very rarely perfectly horizontal. If roll is applied to the camera, ie it is not perfectly horizontal, the vertical line can appear to lean to one side.

Further VAR reading

VAR protocol
Premier League's VAR principles
Clear and obvious
Referee Review Area (RRA)
Attacking possession phase
Offsides
Penalty kicks
Unseen incidents
Final decision
VAR Hub
Communications
Frequently Asked Questions

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