KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Howard Webb has been snapped by Major League Soccer in the United States to oversee its live experiment this coming season with video assistant referees.
The Football Association and the Premier League were slow to pursue the testing of VARs under the supervision of the law-making International Board and the systems will also be tested later this year in the German Bundesliga.
Webb, the 2010 World Cup Final referee and with every other top appointment on his FIFA international cv, has taken up various media consultancies since retiring and his signing is a coup for MLS.
Formally, the former policeman is to join the Professional Referee Organization as manager of video assistant referee operations from next month.
He will oversee the development and education, assessment, and assignment of VARS for 30 preseason matches and then appointments to in-game VAR testing with the goal of implementing live trials during MLS regular season matches in the second half of the 2017 season.
Webb remains the only referee to officiate both a UEFA Champions League final and FIFA World Cup Final in the same year (2010) and, after retiring, served briefly as technical director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited which organises match officials for all Premier League, Football League and Football Association competitions.
He is also director of referees for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation as well as a member of the BT Sport broadcast team for UEFA Champions League broadcasts.
Webb said: “I’m delighted to contribute to the implementation of what I view as a crucial development for the sport.”
PRO general manager Peter Walton said: “Howard Webb’s high-level officiating experience and work as a broadcaster will bring tremendous value as he guides our referees through various VAR testing and assessment exercises ahead of forthcoming VAR implementation.”
A combined 15 of the 22 MLS clubs will gain exposure to live in-game video review during preseason competition, including matches in the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic, 2017 Desert Friendlies, FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Portland Timbers Preseason Tournament, and Carolina Challenge Cup.
In addition to the in-game tests during preseason, offline testing, with no impact on the game, will take place at MLS stadiums during MLS regular season matches from March through August.