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VAR review tops lawmakers' agenda ahead of World Cup vote

Referee Giacomelli checks the VAR during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and AS Roma at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on November 26, 2017 in Genoa, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Rattini/Getty Images)
by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman

LONDON, January 11, 2018 - The formal introduction of video refereeing has moved a step closer with confirmation that it will be the main item on the agenda of the annual business meeting of football’s lawmakers later this month.

The meeting, featuring senior representatives of the four British home associations and world federation FIFA, will presage the annual meeting in March at which it is likely VAR will be approved for worldwide use including, most particularly, the World Cup finals in Russia in June and July.

However, doubts still persist throughout trial countries and leagues about the application of system, above all the connection speed – or lack of it – between the pitch and screen referees and problems over communicating events to fans and even players.

Mike Riley, general manager of the elite English referees’ body, reportedly considered that consultations “took longer than I would have liked” in Wednesday night’s goalless League Cup semi-final first leg between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

VAR was used three times when referee Martin Atkinson consulted video official Neil Swarbrick.

Problems with VAR have been high-profile during tests this season in the German Bundesliga. A poll of players by the Kicker magazine produced a 47pc vote for cancellation of the trials.

The former FIFA referee Urs Meier is doubtful about its use at the World Cup because many of the referees will have had no competitive experience of its use.

He told Kicker: “In the run-up to the 2006 World Cup I was a member of the commission, which had to decide whether to use goal-line technology at the World Cup. After many tests, we decided against it because at that time the technology was not yet 100pc reliable; it only came in at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

“I see this situation similarly. In Russia referees will be used who have not worked at all with VAR. You cannot agree with this.

“‘Dry’ exercises are not comparable with the pressures and speed of the game at the World Cup. The experience at the Confederations Cup there last year was unconvincing.”

The IFAB business meeting will be held in Zurich on January 22.

A statement concerning the agenda said: “The main focus of the meeting will be on video assistant referees (VARs) and members will discuss the latest results from the experiment and the scientific study report from the Belgian university KU Leuven which has been conducting an independent analysis of the use of VARs, including data from all participating countries and competitions since the start of the experiment in March 2016.

“The IFAB and FIFA administrations will also provide detailed reports on the VAR experiment including the key learning areas and experience from the two-year trial period.

“Based on the analysis and evaluation of all relevant data and information, the board may make a recommendation for the annual meeting to consider on whether the use of VARs in football should be permitted and, if it is, how the use of VARs can be made accessible to as many competitions as possible.”

At least two of the British FAs have privately expressed concern that the January 22 leaves comparatively little time to study all the reports before the Annual General Meeting in March.

The business meeting was scheduled for early last month but had to be postponed because of scheduling issues.

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