FIFA enables referees to look into pitchside monitors for first time in latest VAR test

Friday December 9th, 2016

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FIFA is enabling the match officials at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan that began on Thursday to review footage on a pitchside monitor for certain decisions.

The “important test” is a first for FIFA, which in its previous “semi-live” experimentation had only allowed officials on the pitch to receive verbal input on key decisions via headset from a Video Assistant Referee in a van. The VAR now has access to all broadcast feeds inside a video operations room. The referee on the pitch can receive support from the VAR and take a look on the monitor as the ultimate decision-maker.

According to FIFA, making this progress on the test of VARs will kick off more two-year trials starting in 2017 in the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal and Qatar. FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said he is in favor of having VARs in place by the 2018 World Cup.

In Japan where the annual FIFA Club World Cup is being held, referees will be able to review decisions deemed “match-changing,” using video assistance on goals, penalty decisions, direct red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

“This represents a big step forward in terms of testing the technology,” Marco van Basten, FIFA’s Chief Officer Technical Development, said in a statement.

“We feel well prepared after setting everything up with the support of The IFAB, the host broadcaster Dentsu/NTV and Hawk-Eye – one of a number of providers that offer such technology. At the same time, it’s important to remember that we are entering somewhat unchartered territory here, given that we are going live for the first time. Ultimately, these tests should prove invaluable in terms of determining whether the processes are sound or whether any further refinements are needed.”

Referees and VARs involved in the FIFA Club World Cup participated in training, including a live session with players, multiple TV cameras and the Hawk-Eye VAR system at Yokohama Stadium.

“The VAR system has been developed, just like goal-line technology, to provide additional support for the referee,” FIFA Head of Refereeing Massimo Busacca, said in a statement.

“We want the essential flow of the game to be maintained and, as always, the first and the final decisions lie with the referee. This is our philosophy, and these principles as well as the practical application of the technology have been explained and demonstrated to our match officials as part of an ongoing training programme.”

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