FIFA deploys video replays for first time at Club World Cup

Associated Press

December 8, 2016

          

A soccer ball-shaped decoration of the soccer Club World Cup is displayed in Tokyo, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. Real Madrid will be seeking to keep alive its chances of a unique quadruple title haul when it travels to Japan for the Club World Cup from Dec. 8-18.

LONDON Referees will be allowed to get help from video replays at the Club World Cup in Japan in the first full live in-game trial of the technology that could transform soccer.

Referees could halt games to review footage of "game-changing decisions" on pitch-side monitors or just rely on information being fed by Video Assistant Referees (VARs) watching broadcast feeds away from the field, officials said Wednesday.

Since experiments with replays were approved by soccer's lawmakers in March, FIFA said "semi-live" trials in games have taken place with some information being transmitted to referees by VARs.

But on the eve of the Club World Cup opener between Japanese side Kashima Antlers and New Zealand's Auckland City, FIFA said Thursday's game and the rest of the Club World Cup through Dec. 18 would be used for an "important piece of history."

It is the latest sign of FIFA belatedly embracing technology, four years after the Club World Cup saw the first use of systems to detect whether the ball has crossed the line for a goal.

"It's important to remember that we are entering somewhat unchartered territory here, given that we are going live for the first time," said Marco van Basten, the former Ajax and Milan forward who was hired as FIFA's chief officer for technical development in September.

"Ultimately, these tests should prove invaluable in terms of determining whether the processes are sound or whether any further refinements are needed."

The VARs in a video operations room will only give information to the main referee "to help correct any game-changing decisions," the International Football Association Board, the game's lawmaking body, said. These involve four situations: goals being scored, penalties being awarded, players being sent off and cases of mistaken identity.

"In a significant development that will be new for many viewers, the main referee may decide to review footage directly on a pitch-side monitor particularly for subjective decisions, as opposed to factual ones where he can rely solely on the information provided by the VAR," IFAB said in a statement. "The philosophy underlying the experiments is not to achieve 100 percent accuracy for all decisions, as this would destroy the essential flow and emotions of football.

The aim is to achieve 'minimum interference, maximum benefit', with the technology only being used for the defined match-changing situations and any serious missed incidents. In these cases, the question a VAR will consider is not 'was the decision correct?' but 'was the decision clearly wrong?'"

Referees still retain the authority to take the make the final judgment. Managers and players will not be allowed to appeal to referees to review an incident.

Live tests are set to be expanded globally in 2017 with a decision anticipated by the following year on VARs becoming a permanent feature in soccer. FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who has observed recent off-line trials with VARs at Italy games, wants video replays in use at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"The progress FIFA has made on this project, especially around educating referees and ensuring all technical requirements are met, has been impressive," IFAB technical director David Elleray said.

Hawk-Eye, which provided the goal-line technology at Euro 2016, is being used by FIFA at the Club World Cup for the replays experiments.

The Club World Cup also includes Champions League winner Real Madrid and Copa Libertadores champion Atletico Nacional from Colombia.