Former Premier League referee Howard Webb has been hired to oversee the introduction of video assistant referees (VARs) to Major League Soccer in the US.
One of the most recognisable and respected officials in the British game, Webb was a Premier League referee for 11 years and took charge of the 2010 Champions League and World Cup finals.
After retiring as a referee in 2014, the 45-year-old was appointed technical director at the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body that manages and trains officials in the English game. He went on to become the Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s director of referees, as well as appearing on BT Sport’s broadcasts of European games.
However, from March 1, the ex-South Yorkshire policeman will be working for PGMOL’s equivalent body in the US, the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), as the manager of its VAR testing programme.
In a PRO press release, Webb said: “I’m delighted to join the Professional Referee Organization for this new challenge and contribute to the implementation of what I view as a crucial development for the sport.”
The US game has already been trialling VARs in its development leagues and those live, in-game trials will continue in approximately 30 pre-season MLS matches before a period of off-line testing, with no impact on the game, takes place during the MLS regular season until August’s All-Star Game.
The plan is then to introduce video review in the second half of the season.
PRO general manager Peter Walton said: “[Webb’s] high-level officiating experience and work as a broadcaster will bring tremendous value as he guides our referees through various VAR testing and assessment exercises ahead of forthcoming VAR implementation.”
Webb’s appointment to lead the education, assessment, and assignment of VARs in the US comes a week after former Premier League colleague and current International Football Association Board technical director David Elleray told The Times that FIFA was keen to introduce VARs in time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Meanwhile, England’s Premier League has confirmed the 2017-18 season will run from August 12 to May 13.
The campaign will therefore conclude 32 days before the World Cup gets underway in Russia on June 14, 2018.
The end date means the league will finish a week earlier than this term. The current season is scheduled to finish on May 21.
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