Elite soccer referees will join the 21st century just in time for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Philippe Le Floc’h, FIFA’s chief commercial officer, confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that World Cup game officials now can use video assistant referees to help make decisions. The International Football Association Board is expected to officially add VAR to the laws of the game March 2 at its annual meeting, but Le Floc’h seems to have broken the news five-plus weeks ahead of schedule.
“Definitely VAR will happen,” Le Floc’h told The Associated Press. “It’s great to have technology in football because this is also a fair(ness) thing.
FIFA also is looking for a company to sponsor the moments when World Cup referees use VAR.
“We are talking to various technological companies who are very interested with what we are doing on the technology side of things,” Floc’h said.
Referees are likely to use replays when “there is a ‘clear and obvious error’ involving goals, penalty awards, red cards, and mistaken identity,” according to the AP.
FIFA has been trialing VAR for almost two years now, with largely positive results. Referees used the technology at the 2017 U-20 World Cup, the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup. Various non-FIFA competitions such as the Italian and German leagues already are using VAR.
However, the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be the first time such technology is used at the world’s biggest sporting event. Fans are expected to welcome VAR’s use, given the history of controversial decisions and non-calls at past World Cups.
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