[b]Major League Soccer to trial video referees, plans to implement in 2016[/b]
Major League Soccer have confirmed they will start trialling the use of a video referee in friendly matches with the view to design a system that can be operable across football worldwide within 12 months.
FIFA, faced with mounting pressure to catch up with other professional sports who have adopted the use of video-officiating, earlier this year rejected an application from the Dutch FA (KNVB) to run their own trial.
MLS, however, plans to circumnavigate FIFA’s block on trials by staging them in 10 to 15 non-competitive fixtures at the end of October. Officials in the U.S. have said that the trial will focus on reviewing decisions in three areas; penalty kicks, red cards and the awarding of a goal.
[b]“In all those cases, there is a natural stoppage,” Jeff Agoos, MLS vice-president of competition, told The Times.
“Our findings show there is ample time to give information to the referee. Depending on the incident, there can be from 40 seconds to well over a minute, plenty of time to review a decision.”[/b]
The Dutch trial proposed a 15-second timespan for the video official to intervene in such decisions but Agoos insists that no mandated period should be set to help the flow of the game.
“We are huge proponents of using technology to improve the game without disrupting the flow,” Agoos said. "It’s about marrying those two things.
"Ultimately, we believe the referee should have as much, if not more, information than the fan who goes to the game. At the moment the fan has more on his smartphone. We don’t think that makes sense.
“The discussion in football, ‘That it’s always been that way,’ doesn’t hold water with us. We are not looking for perfection. It doesn’t exist. There will always be the human element but the game is so fast now that it’s impossible for the officials to keep track.”
Agoos confirmed that MLS club owners have backed the trials and if they prove successful plan to wheel out the video referee system ahead of the 2016 season. That is, if FIFA are convinced to allow it.
“The MLS would be very happy to take the lead for the rest of the game,” Agoos said.
“Football’s culture is to be conservative but for us, the technology is natural. It’s in our sports, the norm here. It’s going to be implemented in football. Once the door is open, it’s just a question of how wide.”
[b]Video trials to assist referees may take place in next season’s FA Cup[/b]
Video replays for referees could be given a trial in the FA Cup from next season after the game’s law-making body decided to recommend large-scale live experiments.
Proposals to introduce video assistance for referees has gained rapid traction since the then Fifa president Sepp Blatter performed a U-turn and endorsed the idea in 2014, two years after the introduction of goalline technology.
The English Football Association has been a big supporter of the idea and following a meeting of the International FA Boards in London, the chief executive, Martin Glenn, said trials could begin as soon as next season if the idea was rubber-stamped at the Ifab AGM in March.
“I’m very happy for things within my direct control – the English FA’s direct control – to be part of that,” said Glenn. “We are big supporters of the use of technology. So, what do we control? We control the FA Cup.”
The Scottish FA will also hold talks about experimenting with the technology in next season’s Scottish Cup. If the live trials go ahead next season and are deemed successful, video assistance could be introduced worldwide in time for the 2018-19 season.
In terms of the Scottish Cup, the Scottish FA chief executive, Stewart Regan, said: “It’s one that we would certainly discuss as a board. As a personal preference, it’s something I’d like to see push forward.”
Big questions remain about the extent to which it might affect the flow of the game and the practicalities of ensuring that every ground was kitted out with cameras. The FA, however, is keen to be in the vanguard of testing the technology. The trials would be limited to decisions on goals, red cards, penalties and cases of mistaken identity.
[b]They would involve different kinds of experiments, such as video only being used when the referee asks for assistance or, alternatively, where the video assistant would be allowed to flag up errors.
So-called “coach challenges” – which could result in each dugout being allowed to challenge a set number of decisions in every match – are not likely to be part of the first wave of trials.[/b]
Video decisions would be time limited and, unlike rugby, contentious decisions would not be replayed on big screens for the crowd to see but information relayed to the referee via an earpiece.
If introduced in the FA Cup, the idea would be to experiment in every match in which it was possible to do so – essentially those grounds equipped for television broadcasts. Ifab wants the tests to be as competition-wide as possible, ideally an entire season of a league or cup competition.
Jonathan Ford, chief executive of the Football Association of Wales, said that use of the technology would be limited to “very important, game-changing moments”.
He added: “The decision is to put a very strong recommendation to the AGM that this is accepted, that experimentation does happen.”
Ford said that they remained a long way from finalising how any future video refereeing system could work.
“The fluidity of the game is all important as is the ultimate authority of the referee,” he said. “Whatever system is finally adopted, assuming it eventually is, must reflect both of those principles.”
In February, Ifab ruled that it would delay trials of video technology for at least 12 months. The Dutch FA was keen to give a trial to the concept in Cup matches but Fifa said the decision should be put off for the time being. There is believed to be a stronger chance that at its AGM in Cardiff in March Ifab will decide to press ahead with the trials.
The board consists of four representatives – one from each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and four from Fifa, each of which has equal voting rights.
David Elleray, the former Premier League referee who sits on Ifab’s technical subcommittee, said: “The main objective is to try to eliminate clear errors by the referee. You will never eliminate all errors from the game but this is a major step forward in reducing those errors.”
Ifab approved the use of goalline technology in 2012 and since then there have been an increasing number of calls from players and managers to use video technology in other aspects of the game.