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FIFA boss Gianni Infantino says VAR is here to stay but offside rows are history

FIFA’s boss reveals there have been 16 refereeing mistakes corrected by VAR and it is now impossible to think of a World Cup without VAR.

The introduction of video assistant referees has “finished” the debate about offside goals in football, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has claimed.

The use of video replays for the first time at a World Cup has been one of the stories of Russia 2018, although, as Infantino pointed out in Moscow on Friday, the torrent of stories about VAR in the opening weeks of the tournament has reduced to a trickle.

“That means it’s accepted, it’s working well,” said Infantino.

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino at his press conference in Moscow on Friday (Francisco Seco/AP)

He explained that he was initially sceptical about replays but the decision to trial VAR for two years had already been taken when he took over as FIFA boss in February 2016.

Those early doubts, however, did not last long and it was Infantino who drove the decision to bring in VAR for Russia 2018 before most competitions and leagues around the world have even piloted it.

“The results – and I am speaking about facts, not words, feeling or perceptions – are extremely clear and positive,” he said.

“There have been over 400 incidents checked in the 62 games so far here, with 19 on-field reviews, so one every three or so games.

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Slovenian referee Damir Skomina goes to the sideline to make a VAR check during the match between Sweden and Switzerland (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

“Sixteen decisions have been changed from wrong to right. Now when you check the word progress in a dictionary it means ‘make things better’ – that is VAR. It’s not changing football, it’s making it better, cleaner.”

He said that referees have gone from getting about 95 per cent of all decisions right to 99.32 per cent but said there would always be some room for a referee’s interpretation of the laws as “football is a contact sport but not every contact is a foul”.

“And what is really clear is that the offside goal is finished in football – you are either offside or you are not,” said Infantino.

“You will have to find different arguments to write about.”

He also claimed VAR has had an impact on player behaviour, what he referred to as its educational benefit. He noted there have been no red cards yet in Russia for violent conduct, a huge reduction on previous tournaments.

“It’s difficult to think about a World Cup without VAR now,” he added.

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