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FIFA President Infantino ready to roll out video technology to all as Premier League rapped


The VAR system is designed to help referees with on-field decisions

The VAR system is designed to help referees with on-field decisions

PA Wire/PA Images

The VAR system is designed to help referees with on-field decisions

It's a topic which has caused much consternation for followers of Premier League football this season.

The very mention of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) can make the blood of the most mild-mannered fan boil.

A lack of consistency and wrong decisions, especially in recent weeks from those watching on screens at VAR HQ in Stockley Park, has led to high profile Premier League managers Frank Lampard and Jose Mourinho vent their frustration and anger.

There has been a growing clamour for the Premier League to ditch the off-site officials and instead, as they do around Europe, place all the responsibility on the referee to decide VAR calls.

Yet the most powerful man in world football seems unperturbed by recent events.

Indeed, as FIFA President Gianni Infantino enjoyed the salubrious surroundings of the Culloden Hotel in Cultra for the 134th Annual General Meeting of the International Football Association Board, he encouraged those who are distressed by the implementation of VAR to "relax a little bit".

VAR was discussed at yesterday's meeting, chaired by host association President, the Irish FA's David Martin, however the guardians of game involving delegations from FIFA, the IFA, Scots FA, the Football Association and FA of Wales took a global view, where it has been a relative success in the 29 other countries who employ it, rather than focusing on the issues of the Premier League.

Infantino, though, once the meeting had finished, basically rapped the knuckles of England's top league.

The Swiss legislator said: "Obviously this is concern, but I wouldn't overplay it. I think we all to need to... relax a little bit on this topic.

"There is only one league in the world today where this issue seems to be a big problem, the Premier League. But on the other side, if you compare it with the other leagues around the world who have introduced VAR two or three years ago and went through the process, in the first couple of months in Germany and Italy, not everything was perfect. Eventually it settled in.

"VAR is used in 105 competitions around the world and the vast majority are happy with it. It's not perfect but 99% perfect, which is pretty good. It can improve and we are discussing how we can improve it. But let's look at where we were and where we are now and I understand there have been some discussions in England and some improvements have been put forward and are being made with regard pitchside decisions."


How video assistant referees work (PA Graphics)

How video assistant referees work (PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

How video assistant referees work (PA Graphics)

VAR was roundly praised at the meeting for the success in those 29 countries and the fact 36 other countries, including Scotland, are hoping to introduce it but one area of the innovation where they are looking to improve is the communication aspect. But delegates stressed there had to be a balance between those in the stadium and the armchair fan at home. Football Association of Wales President, Jonathan Forde, also made the point there could be health and safety issues with in-stadium audio and visuals related to VAR, in terms of public unrest and so they needed to tread carefully.

VAR is largely used in the cash-rich leagues around the world but President Infantino, never forgetting the lower reaches of the game, said FIFA, football's world governing body, would strive to help those countries, who maybe couldn't afford the technology, but wanted to introduce it.

"Technology is evolving and it is our objective to make sure VAR is not exclusive for the rich ones," proudly stated Infantino.

"VAR can be used by any league that has matches broadcast - we don't need 40 cameras, it can be done with much fewer cameras. For this reason, we are analysing and studying the possibilities of proactively helping those countries who want VAR but cannot afford it. As long as we can do something that can help the referee and if one camera can see better than the referee then we should do it."

While there was no major developments on VAR, IFAB, at yesterday's meeting, have agreed to introduce trials for concussion substitutes with FIFA set to implement them at this summer's Olympics in Tokyo and maybe even next year's FA Cup.

Protocols will be drawn up, which can then be opened up for trial in various competitions around the world.

"When you look at the one potential trial that we mentioned, an additional substitution for a concussed player, it brings an additional possibility. Because the health of the players is crucial," admits Infantino.

"If there is any doubt, we have to keep the player out. We have been criticised, maybe rightly, for being slow, but now we will move, we will try and we'll see."

The offside law could also be set for a major change, too, as IFAB tasked its football and technical advisory panels with looking at ways to encourage "the philosophy of attacking football".

The advent of VAR has removed the old "benefit of the doubt" to attacking players and in a bid to redress that, the law will be revisited, with trials of a new approach perhaps taking place as soon as the 2021-22 season.


FIFA President Gianni Infantino donned some Glentoran gear in an effort to keep warm at the Oval.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino donned some Glentoran gear in an effort to keep warm at the Oval.

Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

FIFA President Gianni Infantino donned some Glentoran gear in an effort to keep warm at the Oval.

Infantino says he would like to see "light in between" the attacker and the defender for offside to be called.

"The philosophy of fostering attacking football always has to guide us. We have to be very aware and very wary of tradition," he said.

"Now is really the right time to look into that, to see if we can do something positive for attacking football, whether we can look into providing strikers with more goalscoring opportunities. We need to test it."

The handball law has also been updated, to differentiate more clearly between the arm and the shoulder, while measures to tackle the 'mobbing of match officials' was part of the discussions as IFAB are acutely aware the actions of high-profile players trickles down to the lowest form of the game and they are determined to defend the official.

Northern Ireland on the international front may not have graced the World Cup stage since 1986, but yesterday the Irish FA played a pivotal role in the global game.

And gave FIFA the platform to reprimand VAR's 'problem child', the Premier League.

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Belfast Telegraph