FIFA certifies VAR systems to new global quality standard

October 29, 2021

From August 16-18 in Stockholm, Sweden, the FIFA Quality Program organized a test event for VAR system suppliers to officially certify their systems, with the participation of suppliers from Europe and the United States.

Following its successful implementation at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia ™ and FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 ™, the use of assisted video refereeing has accelerated rapidly. To date, over 100 competitions have used or are using the technology to provide their referees with a support tool in potentially game-changing situations. With the certification of VAR systems under the new global quality standard of the FIFA Quality Program, FIFA takes a new step forward by providing competition organizers with advice on the technical quality of the various VAR systems.

Technical assessment of VAR systems

Using VAR technology in games still requires an extensive setup that includes many computers, servers, monitors, and cables. As the development of smaller systems progresses and the first tests using VAR Light systems are underway, the goal of FIFA’s quality testing is to verify the interaction of the entire configuration and the performance of the system in three main areas: latency, synchronicity and video quality.

Latency

One of the biggest risks with VAR systems is the possibility of delayed video streams preventing the VAR from intervening in time. This is therefore tested with a number of latency metrics to ensure that providers can both deliver the broadcast stream with minimal or no delay and also present a review screen with a three second delay to officials in the. video match. All of these tests are performed using the light source of a blinking strobe to measure exactly the time difference between the event that occurred and its appearance on the screen.

Synchronicity

VAR providers must be able to ensure that the camera feeds they display on the VAR are in sync. This is especially important for scenarios that require views from multiple camera angles, such as with offside, where in-play ball images and the actual potential offside situation are often best identified in two streams of play. different camera. A lack of synchronicity could lead to wrong decisions. Using the same test setup with the strobe and repeating flashes, this test validates whether the flashes appear in the same images on all camera power supplies provided by VAR systems.

Video quality

The final test verifies that the quality of the images supplied to the VAR remains high when ingested into the VAR system and then played back. This is to ensure that the video match officials have the best possible chance of making the right decision and are not working from degraded (compressed) footage. As football matches are produced in different video formats across the world, VAR systems must process these signals while providing high quality video outputs to VARs.

By ingesting two different video formats (interlaced and progressive) into VAR systems, this test measures the quality of the output videos. Using the well-established Video Multimethod Assessment Fusion (VMAF) standard, a perception algorithm developed by Netflix, the quality of videos can be assessed and rated as a percentage of native video.

FIFA certification from July 2022 and transition period

Following the certification of VAR systems to the new global quality standard, the use of a system certified by FIFA will become mandatory from July 2022. From that date, FIFA will validate compliance with this requirement in the Implementation Assistance and Approval Program (IAAP) framework for competitions that have not yet introduced VAR. Organizers of competitions for which the use of VAR systems has already been approved (or is subsequently approved before the deadline of July 2022) will benefit from a transition period from the current system to the new compulsory certifications and will therefore be able to continue to operate. under their existing agreement. During the transition period, the supplier must apply for certification at one of the upcoming FIFA VAR technology testing events.

To give other VAR providers the opportunity to have their systems certified, FIFA will organize the next test event in early 2022. Suppliers can already express their interest or request further information on the quality program by sending an email to [email protected]

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