FIFA says VAR is 98.9% accurate as it surges through IFAB in time for Russia 2018

By Andrew Warshaw

January 23 – As anticipated the use of video technology at the World Cup in Russia has moved a step closer though a final decision will not be made until early March.

Monday’s business meeting of the International FA Board, the game’s lawmakers, received positive feedback from two years of trials but stopped short of giving a firm green light to the global introduction of a system which is yet to prove entirely consistent.

The final decision on allowing assistant video referees (VARs) to become part of the rules of the game will be taken on March 3 by IFAB’s full session where FIFA will control four of the eight votes with the four British federations having one each.

Monday’s interim meeting brought together IFAB technical experts, FIFA refereeing officials and researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, who have studied use of video review in 804 games across more than 20 competitions.

“The discussions we had today do not indicate that further experiments need to be conducted,” said Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA’s lead official for technological innovation.

In recommending VAR’s use, researchers reported that the decision accuracy had been 98.9%. That would imply ratification is a foregone conclusion in March but experiments in countries such as Germany and Italy have not by any means been flawless and there are serious doubts about whether the problems can be ironed out in time for such a major tournament such as the World Cup where teams, officials and fans will not be familiar with the system.

In a statement, FIFA said there was a need “to ensure consistency” and that “the need for a comprehensive approval process” would be proposed at the March meeting.

That is some distance away from recommending total approval per se, suggesting not everyone is entirely convinced.

“FIFA will try and push it through but the problem we’ve got is that if it doesn’t work at the World Cup all hell will break loose.” one senior IFAB figure told Insideworldfootball. “On the flipside, if it is not used and there is an incident that could have been caught by VAR, again all hell will break loose.”

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