MLS to host IFAB workshop on video assistant referee experiments

The second global workshop on experiments with video assistant referees (VARs) will be hosted by Major League Soccer at Red Bull Arena from July 19-21, the league announced on Tuesday.

MLS and the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the body that establishes and governs the laws of the game of soccer, announced in June that MLS will be among the first leagues in the world to participate in developing and testing FIFA’s new VAR initiative – the first step toward implementing video review for referees in MLS competition.

Next week’s workshop follows the kickoff sessions held in the Netherlands in May, when competition organizers were provided with specific requirements needed to take part in the two-year VAR trial overseen by the IFAB that will begin next year.

Representatives from more than 20 leagues and associations around the world will attend the three-day workshop at Red Bull Arena. Leagues and associations that aren’t already confirmed to be participating in the VAR trial are attending the workshop to learn more about VAR protocol and practical implications.

The VAR initiative consists of an additional referee positioned in a booth with technology that allows access to video from every available camera angle at a finger’s touch. A communications system will allow the VAR to alert and advise the head referee on the four “game-changing” decisions included in the experiment protocol – goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents and cases of mistaken identity.

According to a league statement, the focus of the workshop will be on the use of video assistant referees in a “live” environment. Through presentations and practical on field demonstrations by local U-18 soccer players in match settings, attendees will learn more about how the referees should communicate with each other to make decisions on decisions regarding goals, penalties, direct red cards and mistaken identity.

“Offline” experiments – ones in which VARs can familiarize themselves with the setup, assess video replays and practice making calls without communicating with the match referee – are due to start this year. In addition, the IFAB and FIFA may select matches or tournaments where VARs will be used live in matches, such as friendly matches in the participating competitions or the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December this year, which could serve as a dress rehearsal before the IFAB authorizes participants to conduct live tests in 2017.

As the independent body authorized to decide and agree on changes to the Laws of the Game in consultation with the football community, the IFAB will supervise each experiment with the support of FIFA’s Football Technology Innovation Department.

The decision from The IFAB on whether or not VARs should be introduced could be made in 2018 at the earliest, or in 2019 at the latest.

A basic snapshot of how the VAR setup will work can be found here

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