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Fans react to Semi-Automated Offside Technology news

It’s not been a good season for Premier League referees. With at least one new refereeing controversy per week, pretty much every side in the English top flight has been messed around this season.

Offsides are right up there with the most infuriating, and VAR has only served to increase scrutiny on calls made by assistant referees. From Patrick Bamford being given offside for pointing where he wants the ball, to Luis Díaz having a goal ruled out because the VAR forgot he’d been given offside and said “check complete”, pretty much every fan has seen ridiculous decisions being given against their team.

So today’s news that the Premier League clubs have unanimously agreed to introduce Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) for most of next season has unsurprisingly been much-discussed on social media.

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A goal by Brentford's Ivan Toney against Manchester United last month is ruled out after a VAR check. Photo by Icon Sport

What is Semi-Automated Offside Technology?

Anyone who has watched the Champions League this season, or indeed the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, will be familiar with SAOT.

The system uses cameras and tracking software to accurately determine the position of every player on the pitch at the exact moment the ball is struck, a process which has previously been performed, less accurately, by the VAR.

The Premier League hope this will reduce the average length of the decision-making process by 31 seconds. PGMOL chief Howard Webb said he was “delighted” by the news of the technology’s introduction.

The league said: “The technology will provide quicker and consistent placement of the virtual offside line, based on optical player tracking, and will produce high-quality broadcast graphics to ensure an enhanced in-stadium and broadcast experience for supporters.”

How have fans reacted?

As you might expect, lots of fans are delighted with the news. On X (formerly Twitter), @FPLFocal wrote: “Really happy with this, way better than the current process.”

Similarly, @jbr90 commented: “Best news ever! It’s worked so well elsewhere, for a league that prides itself as being the best they feel late to the party in this respect.”

Another user, @bydgcharlie, welcomed the news but questioned why it has taken this long: “Seems crazy it hasn’t been used up until this point.”

Others are concerned that the current set of referees are still not well-equipped enough. @Views09 wrote: “Fantastic news but English officials will still find a way to f**k it up, I have no doubt about that.”

@evernon10 was concerned that supporters in the stadiums will have even less of an idea about what the officials are looking at. He commented: “I hope this makes it clearer for match going fans, and we’re not left in the dark not knowing what’s happening. Like they do with VAR.”

Others, like @GraceOnFootball, felt bringing the system in after the autumn international break – as is the plan – jeopardised the fairness of the competition.

She wrote: “Just conceptually I hate the idea of bringing it in during the season. Need consistency across an entire tournament. If you can't bring it in day one, you can't have it next season.”

One thing is for sure – scrutiny over every tiny decision a referee makes is here to stay, SAOT or not.


Jamie Barton

A freelance football writer and podcaster, Jamie has appeared on/in the BBC World Service, PA Media, Charlton Athletic FC and Empire of the Kop, among others. He's attended matches all around the world, from Tranmere to Tokyo, and once had his bus home from the 2022 Champions League final in Paris delayed by 28 hours.

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