Fifa begins trials of TV replays

Television replays to assist referees will be used for the first time in Fifa competition with trials to take place during the Club World Cup Japan.

Video assistant referees (VARs), who will be given access to all broadcast feeds inside a video operations room, will be able to advise the on-field official of errors in “match-changing” situations.

The referee will then be able to review footage on a pitchside monitor for certain decisions, which is a key progression from the ‘semi-live’ tests conducted at recent international friendly matches in Italy.

“This represents a big step forward in terms of testing the technology,” said Fifa’s chief officer for technical development, Dutch legend Marco van Basten, ahead of the tournament in Yokohama and Osaka which kicks off today.

“At the same time it’s important to remember that we are entering somewhat unchartered territory here, given that we are going live for the first time. Ultimately, these tests should prove invaluable in terms of determining whether the processes are sound or whether any further refinements are needed.”

The plan is for VARs to be able to correct clear mistakes in serious incidents including goals, penalty decisions, direct red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

They will play a supporting role, along with the assistant referees and the fourth official, but the referee will continue to take the first as well as the final decision on the field of play.

Live trials are due to take place from 2017 onwards in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, and the USA.

Meanwhile Fifa President Gianni Infantino is still recommending a 48-team World Cup in 2026 but now prefers to have 16 first-round groups of three teams each, a source in FIFA said yesterday.

Infantino’s suggestion was among four proposals which had been sent to Fifa Council members who will decide in January on the formats and number of teams for the 2026 World Cup, the source said.

Infantino had previously suggested a 48-team tournament but with a sudden-death preliminary round involving 32 teams.

The 16 winners would then go into a 32-team group stage along with 16 other teams who would receive a bye. This format remained on the table but was no longer Infantino’s preferred option, the source said. The other proposals were to keep the current 32-team format, or to have 40 teams with either eight groups of five or 10 groups of four.


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