On 1 September 2016, FIFA successfully conducted its first official “semi-live” Video Assistant Referees (VAR) test during the friendly match between Italy and France in Bari. This first ever “semi-live” VAR test is a positive experience on which FIFA is determined to further building its VAR knowhow.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino was “very satisfied” by the outcome of the first official FIFA “semi-live” Video Assistant Referees (VAR) test held in Bari during the friendly between Italy and France, which finished 3-1 to Les Bleus.
Besides the excellent technical setup of a multitude of cameras and flawless radio communications involved, the high-level training and broad experience on Video Assistant Refereeing of the Dutch match officials completed the sensitive task. The positive outcome will enable the FIFA/IFAB VAR experiment to take an important step forward.
After the representatives of both teams as well as the Dutch FA (KNVB) and IFAB (who have assessed the situation on-site) had agreed on this “semi-live” test, FIFA decided that during the friendly between Italy and France, VARs may communicate video replay information to the referee to assist him in the event of a clear error in a match-changing decision or a serious missed incident (as defined in the experiment protocol). Controversial situations, which would need more time to be analysed properly, have not been reviewed.
Also, again for practical reasons, FIFA referee Björn Kuipers of the Netherlands did not review any incident on-site (on-field review). This element of the VAR experiment protocol was exceptionally not being used during this match, because FIFA has not introduced on-site screen reviewing at this stage of VAR testing yet. Referee Kuipers was assisted through radio communications only. Therefore, the test was defined as “semi-live” instead of “live” which would have included on-site reviewing by the Match Official.
On the setup provided by the “Hawk-Eye” company, the VARs detected two different scenes throughout the whole game worthy to communicate to the Match Official. The first was four minutes into the game, when Djibril Sidibé fouled Daniele De Rossi. The VAR helped the referee after reviewing the scene by stating that a yellow card is sufficient and a red card not appropriate. The second scene occurred in the penalty area when De Rossi’s header was supposedly stopped by hand of French defender Layvin Kurzawa. Kuipers had halted the game (at a free throw situation) to get advice from his VAR and eventually take the decision: no penalty kick. On both occasions, the decisions taken by the referee, assisted by VAR, were accepted immediately by the players.
President Infantino made it very clear that the referee will remain the sole authority of decision taking in the game. “The assistant referees will not be substituted by VAR or any other technology. We will not cannibalise our game.”
The next steps in the VAR experiment consist of further tests and, most importantly, the training of Video Assistant Referees in order to ensure a high level of knowledge with this powerful help and protection tool for referees. The next opportunity for a FIFA VAR test will be on 15 November when Italy face Germany.