FIFA’s rule-making panel approved the addition of video review to the laws of of the game on Saturday following a trial period, clearing the way for its use at the World Cup this summer.
The IFAB panel voted unanimously to begin updating the sport’s written rules to include video assistant referees (VAR) and let competition organisers ask to adopt it.
VAR, which can overturn a “clear and obvious error” involving goals, penalty awards, red cards and mistaken identity, has been used throughout the league season in many countries on a trial basis, including the Bundesliga, Serie A, Portugal’s Primeira Liga, MLS and the A-League. It has also just been introduced in Brazil and La Liga will use it next season.
“As of today, video assistant referees are part of football and this is certainly very important news,” said FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who chaired the meeting. “Together with our colleagues we have taken some very important decisions today.
“We had, as you can imagine, a very intense morning, fully aware of our responsibility to take an important decision for football.
“This topic was discussed and debated for decades. VAR is good for football, is good for refereeing, it brings more fairness in the game and, for these reasons, we have decided to approve VAR.”
An IFAB statement read: “This landmark meeting, chaired by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, represents a new era for football with video assistance for referees helping to increase integrity and fairness in the game.”
FIFA has already used the technology at the Club World Cup last December, and Infantino said a decision on VAR at the World Cup “will be taken at next FIFA Council meeting on March 16 in Bogota.”
“Of course it will have an impact on the World Cup and on the matches, and it will have a positive impact on the matches, this is what the studies show,” Infantino said.
“From the 1,000 matches, approximately, that were part of the experiment, the level of accuracy of the decisions taken by the referees increased to 99 percent. It’s almost perfect. Perfection in our world does not exist, but VAR certainly gets us closer.
“I was extremely sceptical personally on VAR, but we tested it, and I personally came quite a long way. I can guarantee our referees which will be at the World Cup will be ready. They have trained for the last two years.”
English football only starting its own trials in January in domestic cup competitions and it has seen many controversial moments, but the impact has been largely positive over the long-term in other leagues.
⚽ HISTORIC DECISION: The IFAB`s General Assembly has just approved Video Assistant Referees to be used on a permanent basis. The VAR system has been trialled over the past two years in almost 1,000 football matches.
— The IFAB (@TheIFAB) March 3, 2018
However, UEFA has already stated it will not use VAR in the Champions League or the Europa League next season, while the Premier League is not expected to consider introducing it until 2019 at the earliest due to ongoing confusion about how it is implemented.
Infantino added: “We can see in the matches, where the game is being interrupted, this creates even an additional moment of tension where everyone is waiting.
“But at the end of the day, what is more important for us is that we can help the referee to take the right decision. We bring more fairness in the game with this. One clear mistake that the referee does every three games… we can limit this to once every 19 games. That must be the main objective.”
The vote was taken at the 132nd annual general meeting of IFAB, which was presented with the results of the independent analysis of the use of VAR over the last 12 months from Belgian university KU Leuven. IFAB said the philosophy of VAR is “minimum interference — maximum benefit.”
The football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had one vote each, while FIFA, representing all other national federations, had four, with six required for a change in the laws.
A VAR Implementation Assistance and Approval Programme (IAAP), overseen by IFAB and FIFA, aims to bring consistency and quality throughout its use.
Meanwhile, IFAB also approved the use of the additional, fourth substitute in extra time, as trialled over the past two years. The “use of electronic and communication equipment in the technical area (small handheld mobile devices), strictly for tactical/coaching purposes and player safety” was also voted through.
There will also be revised wordings on “denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (DOGSO)” and “stopping a promising attack (SPA)” relating to the law change that ended the triple punishment for a red card inside the box.
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