Dan Burke·22 January 2018
Dan Burke·22 January 2018
A FIFA spokesperson has confirmed that Russia 2018 will be the first ever World Cup to utilise the video assistant referee [VAR].
VAR featured in last summer’s Confederations Cup and has since been implemented in a number of leagues across Europe this season, including the German Bundesliga and the Italian Serie A, as well as recently being trialled in the English FA Cup and League Cup.
However, despite the technology causing a great deal of controversy and debate surrounding the interruptions it can cause to the flow of a match and even the outcomes of some of the incidents referred to the video referee, FIFA appears to be ready to press ahead and introduce it to the World Cup for the first time in the history of the competition.
On Monday, the issue was discussed at a meeting of International Football Association Board [IFAB] in Zurich and though a final decision is not expected to be made until March, FIFA’s chief commercial officer Philippe Le Floc’h says talks have already begun regarding potential sponsorship deals for the technology.
“Definitely VAR will happen,” Le Floc’h told Associated Press.
“I think it’s great to have technology in football because this is also a fairness thing.
“We are talking to various technological companies who are very interested with what we are doing on the technology side of things.”
The decision is likely to be an unpopular one in many quarters, particularly among those who feel the VAR system hasn’t yet been tested thoroughly enough.
Former FIFA-listed referee Bernd Heynemann recently told German magazine Kicker that it will be “simply impossible with only six to eight weeks of preparation” for VAR to be successfully implemented at such a high-profile tournament, while former former Swiss referee Urs Meier is equally sceptical.
“It is impossible to prepare with just a few trial exercises, because they in no way account for the speed and real-time pressure of a World Cup match,” Meier, who officiated at the 1998 and 2002 World Cup finals, told Kicker.
“The VAR is like an airbag: it can help in an emergency, but only in case of a real emergency.”
Germany internationals Sandro Wagner and Sami Khedira have both been outspoken in their criticism of the VAR, while Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon suggests the technology is turning football “into water polo”.
“The players do not know anymore whether or not to celebrate after a goal,” said Khedira last November.
“A lot of emotion and passion has been lost.”
“You told us that VAR would be used in clear-cut incidents where there were mistakes, but now you are even checking the replays for a trodden toe or a finger in an ear,” added Buffon.
“It’s no longer football, it’s turning into water polo.”
Ahead of the World Cup, which kicks off in June, FIFA referees will be sent to a training centre in Florence, Italy where they will learn how to use the technology, which suggests world football’s governing body has already made up its mind.
“I can’t imagine that the people who have implemented this project will suddenly say ‘no’,” former German referee Markus Merk told Associated Press.
“That’s why I’m convinced the VAR will be used at the World Cup in Russia, but I don’t think it will give a satisfactory result.”