With MLS introducing the testing of Video Assistant Referees (VARs) this season, the Professional Referee Organization announced on Tuesday the appointment of retired FIFA referee Howard Webb as Manager of VAR Operations.
Starting in March, Webb will oversee the development and education, assessment and assignment of VARs for PRO.
Webb retired as a match referee from a 25-year career after officiating more than 500 English Premier League and Football League games, overseeing UEFA Champions League games and serving as a FIFA international referee for UEFA European Football Championship matches and during two FIFA World Cups. Webb remains the only referee to officiate both a UEFA Champions League final and FIFA World Cup Final in the same year (2010).
“Howard Webb will be a great asset to PRO in spearheading the VAR project,” said PRO general manager Peter Walton. “His 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.”
Following his retirement, Webb served as the Technical Director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) which develops referee standards and fields match officials for all English Premier League, Football League (EFL), and Football Association (FA) competitions. Currently, he is the Director of Referees for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation as well as a member of the BT Sport broadcast team for UEFA Champions League broadcasts, utilizing video replay systems to analyze tactical situations and referee decisions in real-time on the air.
“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,” said Webb. “I have tremendous respect for the organization that Peter Walton has created and am excited to be on board for the continued development of this initiative.”
VAR testing is currently underway in MLS this preseason, where it will be used in approximately 30 games with the goal of implementing live, in-game testing during MLS regular season matches in the second half of the 2017 season. In addition to the in-game tests during preseason, offline testing, with no impact on the game, will take place at MLS stadiums during MLS matches during the first half of the regular season.