Smile, you’re on camera
Major League Soccer rolls out video review this weekend — on certain plays
First in the standings, Toronto FC will also be one of the first MLS teams to experience video review this weekend.
Toronto’s game at D.C. United and FC Dallas’ match in Philadelphia, both 7 p.m. ET starts Saturday, kick off Week 22 — which also signals the introduction of a video assistant referee (VAR) at all league matches.
MLS joins Australia’s ALeague and South Korea’s KLeague in implementing video review. Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A are launching it in the 2017-18 season.
It was also used earlier this summer at the Confederations Cup in Russia.
Video review is to be used for “potential clear and obvious errors or serious missed incidents” in four specific situations: goals, penalty kicks, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity.
The video assistant referee becomes a fifth member of the officiating crew, working out of a booth with access to all available match broadcast replays. They are certified referees, trained in the video review protocol by the Professional Referee Organization.
The video assistant referee will check plays that fall under
the protocol as the match goes on, alerting the head referee if a review is required. Final decision goes to the on-field referee, who can rely on the advice of VAR to uphold or overturn the
original decision or watch the replay himself on a sideline monitor.
The VAR can also check a play leading up to one of the reviewable incidents, such as a foul that paved the way to a goal or penalty. But once there is a stoppage of play after the incident and play restarts before the incident is checked, the window for a check is over.
That may prompt referees to delay restarting play, with a finger to their ear piece and arm outstretched, to allow the VAR to check the play.
Any time taken up by the review, will be added to stoppage time.
The video review mantra is “Minimum interference - maximum benefit.”
“Video review will not change the basic way the game is played,” says Howard Webb, the former elite referee who manages PRO’s video assistant referee operations. “Nor are we aiming for 100 per cent accuracy. Referees make hundreds of decisions in every game and if we checked every single one, it would change the way the game is played.
“But video review will improve the game and give the referees the help that they need.”
Some 90 test games produced a total of 701 checks — an average of 8.9 per game. That translated into a total of just 26 reviews — 0.36 a game.
Only the head referee can initiate video review. Players or team staff who call for a review will be cautioned.
Toronto manager Greg Vanney says his advice to players is to play their game without thinking about the review technology.
“Don’t assume anything is being reviewed. Don’t assume anything. Just play the game as if nothing is going on,” he said after training Thursday.
“We can’t be pausing and waiting for a call or waiting for the referee to tell us he’s doing something. Everything has to be status quo for us.”
The Toronto team was briefed on video review before the recent New York FC game.
“I know the guys I talked to after we had that little seminar, we had a much better feeling about the implementation of VAR,” said Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono.
Bono, for one, is going in with an open mind.
“They’re supposed to take the human error out of the big decisions of the game. And to me, that’s something that can only help the game.”
Toronto captain Michael Bradley describes himself as old-school when it come to such soccer technology but acknowledges it is part of the game’s future.
“I’m not a huge fan personality,” he said. “With all this stuff, I tend to be more of a traditionalist.”
He sees the human factor, both with officials and players, as part of the free-flowing nature of soccer.
In this July 11 photo, MLS referee Silviu Petrescu raises a yellow card against a player after using video replay during scrimmages organized in a community park in Park City, Utah.