The use of video assistant referees (VARs) was unanimously approved at the 132nd IFAB Annual General Meeting (AGM) which took place in Zurich, Switzerland on Saturday 3rd March.
The decision by the International Football Association Board (The IFAB) is another step toward wide-ranging use of video assistance for referees in order to help increase integrity and fairness in the game.
Prior to taking its decision, the members of The IFAB (the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as FIFA, representing all other national football associations) were presented with the results of the independent analysis of the use of VARs conducted by Belgian university KU Leuven since the beginning of the VAR experiment in March 2016.
Chaired by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, the meeting’s attendees also approved a draft VAR Handbook containing compulsory protocol, principles and requirements, as well as advice on the implementation of VARs, to enable competitions to complete the rigorous mandatory approval process.
Infantino told the gathered media that the IFAB’s announcement would be discussed in reference to this year’s FIFA World Cup™ later.
“The decision on the World Cup in Russia on VAR will be taken at the next Council meeting in Colombia on 16 March,” said President Infantino, though he confirmed that he was “very positive about VAR.”
There were additional decisions taken at the AGM, including allowing the option of an “additional” substitute to be used in extra time, as well as approving the use of electronic and communication equipment in the technical area (small handheld mobile devices), strictly for tactical/coaching purposes and player safety.
Jonathan Ford, Chief Executive, Football Association of Wales said of the decision: “It’s clearly a very historical meeting, a very detailed debate that’s been ongoing for many years but ultimately culminated in a unanimous decision to approve VAR. If this works, which it clearly does, we will get fairer results through fairer decisions.”
The use of VAR has been trailed this season in the FA Cup from the 3rd round but has been received with mixed results, most notably Tottenham Hotspur’s FA Cup fifth round replay win over Rochdale which was littered with controversies.
However, Martin Glenn, Chief Executive, The Football Association, added: “The greater the experience competition owners have of running VAR trials the quicker and better it gets, but there’s still work to do and that was the other part of the discussion, which was: ‘how do we make sure we communicate what we’re trying to do to fans and players’ to make sure that not only the principle is good, but the practice is good as well.”
John Fleming, Head of Referee Operations, Scottish FA, said: “Having been involved in many discussions over the past three seasons, I am totally in favour of this momentous decision by IFAB regarding the implementation of VAR into the world of football.
“It is now up to member associations and respective competition organisers within football to decide whether they wish to apply to IFAB and introduce that technology into their competitions.
“It was a brave decision from IFAB on the back of a two-year experiment throughout 30 countries that was heavily analysed.
“The evidence presented by Belgian university KU Leuven was overwhelmingly positive and any negative incidents identified in the experiments can be rectified going forward with intensive coaching and education for match officials.”
Echoing the praise for VAR, Patrick Nelson, Chief Executive, Irish Football Association, said: “It’s a very historic day for association football. Of the 132 Annual General Meetings, this will no doubt be in the top ten in terms of making significant and historic decisions.”
The IFAB is the universal decision-making body for the Laws of the Game of association football. Its objectives are to safeguard, compile and amend the Laws as they apply within the scope of world football as organised by FIFA, which includes ensuring that the Laws are uniformly applied worldwide and monitored accordingly, and that organised football is practised consistently.
To learn more about the Video Assistant Referees, go here.