FIFA defends use of video referees at World Cup


FIFA has again been forced to defend the rollout of its VAR system just days before the World Cup.

FIFA Referees Chairman Pierluigi Collina has refuted claims Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will have a negative impact on football matches at the World Cup in Russia.

VAR technology will be utilised at all 64 games following extensive trials of the system over the last two years, including in the A-League and last year’s Confederations Cup.

Following a final practice session for referees before the opening World Cup fixture between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia (1am Friday 15 June AEST), Mr Collina told journalists he expected video technology would lead to more accurate refereeing decisions. 

“We need to intervene to guarantee that the outcome is right and not affected by a mistake that can be understood in terms of the human being,” he said.

A four-person team located in a central studio on the outskirts of Moscow will plug into 33 camera angles and be constantly checking for mistakes related to four key scenarios: goals, penalties, red cards and mistaken identity.

The VAR operation room in Moscow.
The VAR operation room in Moscow.
Getty Images Europe

They’ll communicate with a referee only for clear errors or serious missed incidents. The referee can also call on the VAR if they think an incident should be reviewed and has the ability to watch replays themselves on a pitch-side monitor. 

“Psychological issues for referees are very important. It’s the main reason why the referee makes the so-called on-field review, because it would be very difficult for someone to change the decision they made on the field of play without knowing what happened,” Collina said. “His self-confidence for the rest of the game could be heavily affected.

FIFA maintains that VAR technology can be a game changer. But questions remain over whether it will change the game for the better.

“Ultimately when it came to the use of technology in football, that’s what we’re all worried about,” SBS Chief Football Analyst Craig Foster said. “We’re worried about changing the flow and the essence of the game and through stop and start approach that you get with the VAR. So my hope is that won’t happen in Russia.”

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