Football authorities in Scotland and England were left frustrated yesterday after the game’s lawmakers delayed live trials of video technology at matches for at least 12 months.
The Dutch FA had proposed experimenting with the system in the Dutch Cup next season, but the International FA Board (IFAB) meeting in Belfast wanted more information before giving the green light.
Under the terms of the Dutch proposal, contentious moments such as red cards, offside decisions that lead to goals and penalty claims could be referred to a video assistant referee watching the match from the sidelines. Such a system already exists in rugby union.
Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan, attempting to put on a diplomatic stance, said that while his association would have been happy to copy the Dutch experiment, there were natural concerns about introducing video technology.
“We would have supported an experiment, but that wasn’t a view that was shared,” he said. “We recognise that if the referee defaults to the man in the van, it could interfere with the free-flowing nature of football. For that reason – and since FIFA hadn’t actually seen the Dutch project in detail – it was agreed that two advisory panels should be the place to start.”
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FA chairman Greg Dyke said he was disappointed at the delay and that the game needed to take action to avoid another Frank Lampard moment – it was his disallowed goal in the 2010 World Cup which led to goal-line technology being introduced.
Within hours of the decision yesterday, Sunderland’s Wes Brown was sent off at Manchester United by referee Roger East in a case of mistaken identity with John O’Shea.
With referees coming under increasing pressure, the need for some kind of scientific aid has become ever more urgent.
But IFAB agreed to refer the issue to its two advisory panels for further assessment, probably taking at least a year.
Bizarrely, the Dutch have presented their interim findings to the four British associations, but not to FIFA, which effectively ruled out any chance of meaningful progress.
IFAB is made up of FIFA and the four home nations, and, although the English FA and Scottish FA were keen to push ahead with trials, Wales and Northern Ireland were more cautious. Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford said: “We shouldn’t as IFAB just allow experiments to be conducted willy-nilly without any control, or terms of reference. That’s not what we are about.”
FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke agreed. “I think it needs a lot of discussion – if the referee just relies on information that he is getting [from the video official] is there a risk he becomes not as strong and always asks for confirmation?
“It’s the biggest decision which will come out of IFAB ever. It’s not a question of years – it’s making the biggest decision ever in the way football is played.”
While IFAB also turned down a proposal to allow a fourth substitute to be used in extra time, deciding three was adequate, there was significant progress on two other issues.
A move to change the so-called ‘triple punishment’, which has been on and off the agenda for years, has at last been agreed in principle so that a player given a straight red card for denying an obvious goal-scoring chance when conceding a penalty is no longer automatically suspended. If approved by FIFA next month, it could come into effect by the start of next season. UEFA wanted a different type of modification, with red cards replaced by cautions when the foul committed is not of a serious nature, but this was ruled out, much to the anger of UEFA.
Rolling substitutions, a proposal by the Scottish FA and described by IFAB as a “ground-breaking decision”, will now be allowed in amateur games at grass-roots level, meaning any number of replacements can be rotated in order to drive up participation.
Following two separate pilot schemes by the English and Scottish FAs, the idea will be adopted globally. “This is a significant change to how recreational football has been played,” said Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson.
Regan said the innovation was hugely important in driving greater participation. “We should not under-estimate the significance of this decision,” he said.