The first workshop on experiments with video assistant referees (VARs) in football concluded in Amsterdam, the Netherlands today.
Leagues and associations interested in conducting the IFAB-sanctioned experiments over the next two years saw the technology in action, with the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) demonstrating how their “offline” trials have worked during an Eredivisie match between Heracles Almelo and FC Utrecht on Thursday evening.
“We chose Amsterdam as the host for the first workshop because over the last couple of years the KNVB has done some initial experimentation, and we just felt that it was right to give them the opportunity to present their key findings as a basis for our debates,” said Lukas Brud, Secretary of The IFAB.
Among those key findings, the KNVB determined the average number of decisions per match that could potentially be improved by using a VAR.
“What we have seen is that we could correct approximately one in four match-changing incidents with the video assistant referee,” said Gijs de Jong, Director of Operations at the KNVB. “What we have also seen is that we could do so in an average of 12 seconds.”
During the three-day workshop, the competition organisers received further information about the requirements they will need to meet in order to take part.
“We need to make sure that all of our stadiums are fitted out appropriately,“ said Todd Durbin, Executive Vice-President of Competition and Player Relations for Major League Soccer.
“Another big aspect of it is going to be training of the officials. Not only the video assistant referees but also the officials on the field, and the communication between them. Just as important is what we’re going to be communicating to the public to make sure that everybody understands the way it’s going to work and what the expectations are.”
All interested leagues and associations still have time to consider the information before deciding whether they wish to participate in the experiments or not. It is expected that by the end of May, those competitions that want to start running the experiments in August will be confirmed.
The IFAB – the independent body authorised to decide and agree changes to the Laws of the Game in consultation with the football community – will supervise each trial closely with the support of FIFA’s Football Technology Innovation Department. This is set to include a research study involving the participating competition organisers, technology providers and a selected independent institute or university to focus not only on the refereeing outcomes but also the effect on the game itself, including the impressions of the various stakeholders.
This week’s workshop follows on from the historic decision by The IFAB in March 2016, which paved the way for live experiments to begin. Additional meetings and workshops will take place in the coming weeks to ensure that participating competition organisers have time to understand all procedures and experiment details.
“This workshop was only the beginning. Hopefully, in two years’ time, with all the information and data available to us, which will also be analysed by an independent body, The IFAB will be able to take a decision in 2018 or 2019,” concluded Lukas Brud.