Referees brace up for VAR at Quarters

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With Video Assistant Referees (VAR) set to debut at the quarter-finals of the Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 following the approval of the CAF Executive Committee, the match officials have been preparing feverishly for its usage.

VAR, with the aim of reducing unfairness caused by ‘clear and obvious errors’ or ‘serious missed incidents’ , will be applicable from the last of the eight of the competitions following the permission from The International Football Association Board (IFAB) and world soccer governing body, FIFA.

Since the beginning the tournament, there has been mock tests of VAR during selected matches, which gave the match officials a practical feel of the system which is expected to enhance officiating at the flagship continental event.

It will be the first time CAF will be applying VAR at a major championship, after a mock usage during the Total African Nations Championship in Morocco in 2018. It will be recalled that VAR made its entry into African football for the first time at the Total CAF Super Cup clash between Wydad Athletic Club (Morocco) and TP Mazembe (DR Congo) in Casablanca in February 2018.

It was followed by the final matches of the CAF Interclubs competitions in 2018 and for the 2018/19 season, and the 2019 Total CAF Super Cup in Doha, Qatar.

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The quarter-final clash between Senegal and Benin on Wednesday, 10 July 2019, at the June 30 Stadium, will go into the history books as the first ever game at the AFCON finals with VAR.

IFAB Technical Director, David Elleray, who has been supervising the VAR training sessions at the Military Academy Stadium in Cairo, has lauded the decision to have the system for the remainder of the competition.

“CAF is being sensible for introducing VAR at the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. This is a critical stage of the competition and there are key matches. It is better to have quality in terms of decision making and VAR will help do that,” Elleray told CAFOnline.com.

“We have been working on this since April 2018. It has been a process and with the support of CAF Instructors. We are satisfied so far with the preparations and we are training everyday to get better.”

In a related development, two Europeans referees have been brought on board to support the VAR system based on their experience and familiarity with the latter. They are Paulinus Van Boekel (Netherlands) and Benoit Millot (France).

“CAF is being sensible for introducing VAR at the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. This is a critical stage of the competition and there are key matches. It is better to have quality in terms of decision making and VAR will help do that,” David Elleray

What is VAR

The aim of Video Assistant Referees (VARs) is not to achieve 100% accuracy for all decisions as there is no desire to destroy the essential flow and emotions of football which result from the game’s almost non-stop action and the general absence of lengthy stoppages. The philosophy is: “minimum interference – maximum benefit”

To ensure that the referee (not the VAR) is the key match official, the referee will always make a decision (except a ‘missed’ usually ‘off the ball’ incident), including the decision that no offence has occurred. The referee’s decision can only be changed if the video review shows a clear error, i.e. not ‘was the decision correct?’ but: “was the decision clearly wrong?”

Reviewable Decisions

Match officials make hundreds of decisions in every match, including decisions that an offence has not occurred. It would be impossible, without completely changing football, to review every decision. Thus, the experiment limits the use of VARs to four categories of match-changing decisions/incidents:

  • Goals/ no goal decisions
  • Penalty/ no penalty decisions
  • Direct red cards (not 2nd yellow cards)
  • Mistaken identity

In all these situations, the VAR is only used after the referee has made a decision (including allowing play to continue), or if a serious incident is ‘missed’ i.e. not seen by the match officials. (culled from www.theifab.com)