Zurich - Football's
lawmakers on Saturday approved video assistant referee technology (VAR)
for this summer's World Cup, in one of the biggest changes to the sport
The International Football Association Board (IFAB, meeting in
Zurich, rubber-stamped a move already backed by FIFA's top brass,
including president Gianni Infantino.
"We came to the conclusion that VAR is good for football", Infantino told reporters shortly after IFAB announced the decision.
He added that the final decision to use the technology at the World
Cup in Russia will be made when the FIFA Council - world football's top
decision-making body - meets in Colombia later this month.
"We will hope and encourage the council to take a favourable
decision," Infantino said, voicing confidence that VAR will secure final
IFAB said in a press release that the decision "represents a new era
for football with video assistance for referees helping to increase
fairness in the game".
VAR can only be used when there is doubt surrounding any of four key
game-changing situations: goals, penalty decisions, straight red cards
or mistaken identity.
It has already been implemented in top European leagues including the
German Bundesliga and Italy's Serie A - along with tests in multiple
Spain's La Liga on Friday began training officials ahead of the technology's expected introduction next season.
But opinion is still
divided, players and managers have complained of referees being too
eager to defer to technology, while fans in stadiums have been left in
the dark as to why decisions are being made.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said this week that European
football's governing body would not introduce VAR in next season's
Champions League due to ongoing "confusion" surrounding its use.
Others have voiced concern about video assistance slowing down the game and possibly breaking a team's momentum.
That is an issue confronting major North American sports like
baseball and American football, where different forms of video replay
have been in use for several years leading to renewed calls to shorten
the length of games.
Some sceptics also have reservations about implementing such a
significant change at the World Cup, before all the kinks have been
resolved at lower-profile competition.
But the desire to
avoid disputed calls - especially in a competition with such a large
global audience - tipped international football officials to support
using VAR at this summer's tournament in Russia.
One iconic example that VAR could theoretically have prevented is
Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal that saw Argentina beat England in
the 1986 World Cup.
For Infantino, international football had to ensure World Cup officials have access to the same images as fans.
"In 2018 we cannot anymore afford that everyone in the stadium and
everyone in front of a TV screen can see within a few minutes on his
phone whether the referee has made a big mistake or not, and the only
one who cannot see it is the referee", he said last month.
Representatives of the 32 teams that have qualified for the World Cup
meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi this week voiced confidence
that the expected VAR rollout would be a positive for the tournament.
"This is the new life. This is modern life," said Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz.
"It is obvious that football cannot go on with its eyes closed to the modern world."