The controversial Video assistant referee technology (VAR) will make its debut at the World Cup in Russia this summer, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said Friday.
This comes despite lingering opposition from within and outside football over the disruptiveness of the technology.
“We are going to have in 2018, for the first time, a World Cup with VAR,” said Infantino after a meeting of the Fifa Council which, as expected, rubber-stamped the go-ahead given by the rule-making International Football Association Board (IFAB) in Zurich two weeks ago.
“This has been approved and we are really very happy with this decision.”
The World Cup will see VAR used to judge whether or not a goal has been scored, analyse whether a penalty should be awarded, decide on red cards and rectify if a player has been mistakenly sanctioned.
“What we want is to help and to give the referee the possibility to have extra help when he has to make important decisions, and in a World Cup we make very important decisions,” added Infantino.
“It cannot be possible that in 2018 everybody, in the stadium or at home, knows in a few seconds if the referee has made a mistake but not the referee himself – not because he doesn’t want to know about it but because we forbid him to know.
“The VAR is helping the referee and we are going to have a more transparent and fairer game, and that’s what we want.”
VAR has been in use since 2016 by 20 federations, including the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A, but it has not been universally accepted with even Uefa still to be convinced of its need.
“Nobody knows exactly how VAR will work. There is already a lot of confusion,” said Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin, who insists that VAR will not be used in next season’s Champions League.
“I am not at all against it but we must better explain when it will be used. We will see at the World Cup.”
One of the problems that dogs VAR, say its critics, is not the accuracy of its decisions but the time it takes to arrive at them.
It’s a drawback which has left many fans and purists frustrated that the flow of a game is interrupted.
But Infantino sees it differently: “The intervention of VAR takes one minute on average in each game. If we lose a minute to correct mistakes, I think we have done something good,” he said.
One thing is sure though…there won’t be any ‘Hand of God’ goal at the World Cup.
So, what do you think about VAR? Sound off in the comments below.