Another Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion

The con­tro­ver­sial video as­sis­tant re­view sys­tem makes its World Cup de­but in Rus­sia, and Fifa is con­vinced cam­era tech­nol­ogy will not only help ref­er­ees reach cor­rect de­ci­sions but en­cour­age fair play and help the im­age of the game. re­ports from Moscow

Daily News - - VIEWS & ANALYSIS -

FOOT­BALL will be un­der­go­ing a rev­o­lu­tion with the in­tro­duc­tion of video as­sis­tant re­views (VAR) at the World Cup, with cam­era tech­nol­ogy en­sur­ing there will be no hid­ing place on the pitch for the tour­na­ment’s 736 play­ers.

The VAR sys­tem, which has caused con­tro­versy and con­fu­sion dur­ing its use in do­mes­tic leagues, makes its World Cup bow in to­day’s open­ing match be­tween Rus­sia and Saudi Ara­bia, two years af­ter Fifa first used it at the Club World Cup.

Ten­sion will be high for of­fi­cials of foot­ball’s rul­ing body in Moscow’s In­ter­na­tional Broad­cast­ing Cen­tre where a four-per­son VAR team – wear­ing full ref­er­ee­ing kit – will be in­stalled at the VAR con­trol room.

It is the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive World Cup to see ma­jor tech­no­log­i­cal changes af­ter goal-line tech­nol­ogy – long re­sisted at Fifa – made a suc­cess­ful de­but in 2014 in Brazil.

For Fifa’s ref­er­ee­ing hi­er­ar­chy, there is no doubt, too, that VAR is here to stay. Not only will it help bring about a cor­rect de­ci­sion in matchchang­ing in­ci­dents, but it is be­lieved it will boost foot­ball’s im­age by help­ing to elim­i­nate vi­o­lent con­duct, dis­sent and other neg­a­tive in­ci­dents on the field of play.

Tech­nol­ogy is be­ing used to brief teams and play­ers on the sort of in­ci­dents which war­rant red cards. It will be, says Mas­simo Busacca, the Fifa di­rec­tor of ref­er­ee­ing, “an in­cred­i­ble tool for preven­tion”.

A video as­sis­tant ref­eree team has ac­cess to 33 broad­cast cam­eras, eight of which are su­per slow-mo­tion and four of which are ul­tra slow-mo­tion cam­eras. In ad­di­tion, they have ac­cess to two off­side cam­eras.

The cam­eras “will fol­low ev­ery­thing, that means that with any un­sport­ing be­hav­iour, se­ri­ous foul play or vi­o­lent con­duct, it will be quite im­pos­si­ble to miss and this is the main rea­son of tech­nol­ogy”, Busacca said.

Fans in the sta­di­ums and watch­ing on tele­vi­sion will have to get used to VARin­duced changes be­yond de­lays while in­ci­dents are reviewed, if nec­es­sary by the ref­eree him­self look­ing at a touch­line mon­i­tor.

For ex­am­ple, as­sis­tant ref­er­ees on the line are now be­ing in­structed not to raise their flags im­me­di­ately on a tight off­side call but to let play con­tinue if there is a promis­ing goal op­por­tu­nity.

This will al­low an op­por­tu­nity for a video re­view if a goal is scored, said Pier­luigi Col­lina, chair­per­son of the Fifa ref­er­ees com­mit­tee.

“If you see an as­sis­tant ref­eree not rais­ing the flag it is not be­cause he is mak­ing mis­takes, it is be­cause he is re­spect­ing the in­struc­tions that have been given to him,” he said.

The VAR po­si­tion looks like be­com­ing a spe­cial­ist job. In ad­di­tion to the 36 ref­er­ees and 63 as­sis­tant ref­er­ees cho­sen for the World Cup, the Fifa ref­eree com­mit­tee se­lected 13 ref­er­ees who will act solely as video as­sis­tant ref­er­ees dur­ing the tour­na­ment. Some of the ap­pointed ref­er­ees and lines­men will also act as video match of­fi­cials.

And it’s a tough job, Col­lina said, which is why they are kit­ted out in their full ref­er­ee­ing gear de­spite sit­ting be­hind screens on the out­skirts of Moscow.

“They are sweat­ing. It’s not like watch­ing a game on the couch while drink­ing coffee, so it is not pos­si­ble to go there dressed as as a clerk, with shirt tie and jacket. They are do­ing some­thing that is stress­ful, be­lieve me,” he said.

Fifa be­lieves some of the in­con­sis­ten­cies which marked VAR use in some ma­jor leagues and com­pe­ti­tions have been ironed out, while ac­knowl­edg­ing mis­takes can­not be en­tirely erad­i­cated, and there will al­ways be in­ci­dents which are a ques­tion of in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

“The good­will of play­ers is also needed. We are con­vinced. We know it can­not be an ex­per­i­ment here, we know we have to be ready, but we are pos­i­tive, we are ready,” Busacca said. – DPA/African News Agency (ANA)


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