KEIR RADNEDGE in ST PETERSBURG —- One year out from the World Cup and the video referee system which is expected to be in use at Russia 2018 remains a work in progress.
Pierluigi Collina, Italy’s former top match official who is now chairman of the FIFA referees committee, explained the complexity of the issues still in play as he reviewed its implementation at the Confederations Cup.
FIFA refereeing officials have taken pride in having seen the VAR help correct six game-changing decisions in the group games and assist in ruling appropriately on another 29 ‘major incidents.’
However Chile face Germany in the final after defeating Portugal and Mexico respectively in semi-finals which appeared to feature a retreat from the video-interventionist policy of the group stage. Both Chile and Germany had reasonable penalty claims shrugged off by the match officials.
Collina indicated events had underscored a policy that the interpretation of physical contact still must remain very much the right of the match referee.
He said: “We are very happy with the results we have had without forgetting that we are a work in progress. In FIFA competitions we have had only the video referee in only 74 matches – eight in the Club World Cup, 52 in the youth cups and 14 so far in the Confederations Cup – so that is not a big number.
“We are aware we can improve. What can give the referees experience is only experience itself. But remember that the purpose of the VAR is to avoid big mistakes, not to rule on everything, on things that remain open to interpretation.
“We want to avoid mistakes that are still remembered years later as having affected the outcome of a final match or a competition.
“We need to explain – through the media – the meaning of the phrase ‘clearly wrong’ because that is what we are debating. It’s easier talking about a physical fact like offside. An interpretation can be more complicated. Also, it’s different looking at something in slow motion and in super slo-mo.
“One of the referees texted me to say he was enjoying the matches because he felt less pressure than usual when referees know they don’t always have the right angle of vision that more than 30 cameras can offer. So the VAR is proving a very positive tool to help the referees avoid committing a mistake.”
Overall Collina was happy with refereeing standards and player behaviour.
He said: “In the 14 matches we have had 25 fouls per match with 47 yellow cards and two red – around three cards per match. We had only two cautions for dissent so in the 14 matches the referees’ decisions were accepted by players and this is something we have to consider very positive.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino supported Collina’s assessment.
Infantino said: “Thanks to the VAR we have achieved a great thing which is that big mistakes are corrected and so the tournament sees more justice on the pitch. It’s a test so we still need to work on some details – on the communication and on the speed of decisions.
“When it comes to decisions which leave room for interpretation there will always be discussions but big mistakes will be corrected which is a great achievement. We have put it finally in place and we are very happy with that.”
A decision ratifying the introduction of VAR still depends on the annual meeting of the law-making International Board next spring but Infantino indicated he considered that a formality.
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