Goalposts moved on football video replays

THE body responsible for the laws of football yesterday gave the green light to trials that will allow referees to use in-game video technology in order to review controversial decisions.

Fifa's new president, Gianni Infantino, says Fifa is now listening to the fans. Photograph: David Davies/PA
Fifa's new president, Gianni Infantino, says Fifa is now listening to the fans. Photograph: David Davies/PA

In what has been described as an “historic decision” for the game, the International Football Association Board agreed to hold tests of the technology in private before rolling out a live pilot phase by the 2017/18 season.

Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, said the move demonstrated that football’s beleaguered governing body, which has long resisted calls for the use of video technology, was now “listening to the fans” and the players.

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The Scottish Football Association (SFA), alongside its English counterpart, is among 13 leagues or associations around the world that have expressed in interest in hosting the trials.

Infantino has already backed the idea of the home nations staging the pilots, adding that it was “inevitable” that the technology would be used in competitive fixtures.

The change, ratified at IFAB’s AGM in Cardiff, will apply to so-called “game-changing decisions,” such as dubious goals, penalty awards, red cards and incidents where there is a suspicion of mistaken identity.

However, the board rejected calls for managers to have appeals where videos of contentious incidents could be examined and potentially overturned.

Infantino said: “We have taken a really historic decision for football. IFAB and FIFA are now leading the debate and not stopping the debate.

“We have shown we are listening to football and applying common sense. We have to be cautious but are taking concrete steps forwards to show a new era has started in FIFA and IFAB.”

Stewart Regan, chief executive of the SFA, described the range of measures announced as “radical experimentation.” He has previously indicated the video trials could be used in the Scottish Cup.

The Football Association’s chief executive, Martin Glenn, has also hinted the FA would be willing to trial it in the flagship FA Cup competition.

IFAB stress that a final decision on approving the technology for use throughout football will only be made following a thorough period of testing and an agreement on the protocols for its use.

Infantino added: “We cannot close our eyes to the future but it doesn’t mean to say it will work. The flow of the game is crucial. We cannot put that in danger. That is why we have to be open to test.”

The experiments with the technology will take place for a minimum of two years in order to identify what the IFAB called its “advantages, disadvantages and worst-case scenarios.”

One such pilot will see a video assistant referee involved in the officiating of games. They will be able to review an incident on the referee’s request as well as flag up incidents the referee may have missed.

The idea has been backed by senior figures in the British game. Claudio Ranieri, manager of Premier League leaders Leicester, believes the changes should be embraced, stating: “I think the technology helps everybody – players, managers, referees.

“Also when people are watching the matches and the ex-players explain the movements, it makes it more interesting. It is much better.”

It comes four years after the IFAB approved the introduction of technology to determine whether the ball crossed the line.

The IFAB meeting also agreed changes to the laws of the game which will mean that referees can now send off players for pre-match fights, while players will be able to receive treatment on the field for injuries.

The IFAB is also to “allow experimentation with a fourth substitution in extra time,” although it has yet to decide where the trials will take place.