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Video refs will improve football despite teething troubles: Irish FA chief


By Graham Luney

It will be considered little consolation after Northern Ireland's World Cup dream was shattered by a controversial penalty decision in the play-off against Switzerland but the Irish FA has still warmly welcomed the news that video technology has been fully approved for use within football from the World Cup onwards.

Despite a backlash against the introduction of Video Assistant Referees (VAR), the International Football Association Board took the historic decision to incorporate them into the Laws of the Game during its AGM at Fifa's Zurich headquarters.

Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, also vowed to forge ahead with plans to use VAR at this summer's World Cup, even though he and his fellow IFAB voters conceded two years of trials had failed to eliminate some of the teething problems that saw it branded "an absolute shambles" during Tottenham Hotspur's FA Cup fifth round replay win over Rochdale.

A final decision on using video technology at the World Cup will be taken by Fifa's council in less than two weeks, with Infantino saying: "The most important competition in the world, which is the World Cup, in 2018, can not afford to be decided on a potential mistake of a referee."

Northern Ireland fans will not miss the irony of that statement, given it was a shocking decision from an official which settled their clash with Switzerland.

Romanian official Ovidiu Hategan wrongly awarded a penalty to the Swiss for handball against Corry Evans at Windsor Park during the first leg of the play-off.

Irish FA president David Martin, who attended the AGM along with IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson, said: "It is a huge decision for football but we felt after listening to all the evidence put before us that it was compelling and this decision will now hopefully improve the game.

"VAR can effectively come into play now. However, there is a lot of work still to be done to make it a success and we are aware of that. We need to support the officials in terms of training and how it will be implemented across the board."

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