European football’s governing body UEFA has confirmed that video assistant referees will be used in the Champions League knockout rounds from February but it will be VAR with a UEFA twist.
Some countries have been using VAR since 2016, when global football’s rule-making body IFAB first approved guidelines for the use of video replays and started a two-year pilot scheme.
Once that was completed, world football’s governing body FIFA decided to use VAR at this summer’s World Cup in Russia, where it was widely considered to be a success.
UEFA, however, initially decided to wait for at least another season before rolling out the system in its competitions – a stance shared by the Premier League.
But at a meeting of its executive committee in Dublin on Monday that approach was ditched and it was confirmed that VAR will also be used in the 2019 Europa League final and next summer’s European Under-21 Championship and Nations League Finals, which both feature England.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “We are ready to use VAR earlier than initially planned and we are convinced that it will be beneficial for our competitions as it will provide valuable help to match officials and will allow to reduce incorrect decisions.”
Looking further ahead, VAR will be used in all Champions League games, from the play-off stage onward, next season and at the 2019 UEFA Super Cup. UEFA is also still planning to use VAR at Euro 2020, the 2021 Nations Leagues and from the group stages of the 2020/21 Europa League.
How UEFA will use VAR, however, will be revealed in January but it is clear the confederation believes the process can be improved.
Asked by reporters if this meant UEFA’s VAR would be a variation on the system used at the World Cup, Ceferin said: “Not a variation, a clarification.
“Our opinion is that it was not clarified enough before: fans didn’t know what was happening, players didn’t know, we didn’t know.
“So we have discussed it with our experts and if we can do it earlier (than originally planned) to avoid mistakes, why wait?”
UEFA’s chief refereeing officer Roberto Rosetti explained that the European idea would still be based on the protocol established earlier this year by IFAB but he said it would be influenced by “internal guidelines, too”.
Rosetti added: “The main concept of the IFAB protocol is the idea of a crucial, clear and obvious mistake. This is the main point. We want consistency and uniformity and our target is to define the line of intervention.”
Europe’s leading clubs and leagues have already said they wanted UEFA to introduce VAR as soon as possible but there concerns remain that some of the smaller leagues and member associations might not be ready, which explains why the full roll-out in UEFA’s club and international competitions is still some way off.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola welcomed the news, referencing decisions that have gone for and against his side as evidence.
“I’m delighted with that. The Premier League is the last one and sooner or later it will happen,” he said.
“This season, the second goal against Shakhtar was a ridiculous penalty. So it’s not just to talk about my benefit or what happened last season.
“Now with VAR – all we are looking for is to make better football and better decisions. Always the referees want to do a good job but everybody makes mistakes. They will be helped by VAR and it will be good.”