VAR progress core to IFAB ABM discussions

The IFAB’s Annual Business Meeting (ABM) took place in London at Wembley Stadium today, chaired by Martin Glenn, Chief Executive of The Football Association. The meeting opened by acknowledging the historical role of The IFAB, whilst ensuring it continues to keep pace with modern digital and technological advancements.

The most prominent topic on the agenda was that of the ongoing experiments with Video Assistant Referees (VAR). VARs represent one of the greatest potential technological changes to the Laws of the Game in The IFAB’s 131-year history, and members were reminded that VARs would be used only for clear errors in match-changing situations.

Thirteen national federations/competition organisers are currently participating in, or have applied to become part of the experimentation process, in more than 15 competitions (Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, USA and FIFA). The IFAB provided a full update on preliminary trials that have taken place so far in the USA, during an international friendly match between Italy and France in Bari, as well as in The Netherlands.

The members today repeated their commitment to clear, open communication throughout the process, to both football stakeholders, but also the media and public. The following key points were re-emphasised:

- One VAR protocol has been established, that all experiment participants will use;

- The key question will always be for any reviewable incident: “was the referee’s decision clearly wrong?”

- The over-riding philosophy, is “minimum interference, maximum benefit” i.e. reviews will be rare, but when they do occur, they will be for the clear benefit of the game. It is important the game’s flow and emotions not be constantly interrupted by reviews.

A multitude of other topics were also discussed.

At last year’s IFAB AGM, 96 changes were made to the Laws of the Game, ensuring that terminology would become clearer, and more consistent, due to their universality. Today, a further refinement of a limited number of laws was discussed, with those proposed amendments to be voted on at the March 2017 AGM.

The use of logos on goal nets - including the potential impact to goal-line technology, and Video Assistant Referees – and the use of electronic communication by technical staff was also debated. Potential modification to the Laws of the Game requested by national associations (in Youth and Veterans football, as well as in different Disability football formats) were also on the agenda.

The IFAB believe national associations should be promoting and encouraging people to take part in football. Consequently, a final wording will be presented at the AGM, allowing those associations to modify ‘organisational’ Laws for football, below the highest levels, if they believe this will increase participation and enjoyment.

What constitutes a ‘handball’ offence, with the intention again to establish greater consistency was another important topic discussed, with IFAB’s aim to eliminate inconsistency in the judgement applied by officials.

Updates on UEFA’s trial with temporary dismissals (“sin bins”); the aim to have a preliminary report at the AGM documenting competitions’ trials with a 4th substitute in extra time (following trials by six different competition organisers); and a proposal to introduce next year a global standard for Electronic Performance and Tracking Systems (EPTS), were also provided.

The Annual Business Meeting shapes the agenda for the Annual General Meeting (AGM), where any proposed changes or amendments to football’s Laws of the Game can become binding. The ABM comprises the general secretaries of the four British associations, the FIFA Secretary General, technical experts of the five members, and the Executive Support Office of The IFAB. The 131st IFAB AGM will be held in London on Friday 3 March 2017.

Regular updates on the VAR project, and other information related to the Laws of the Game can be found at Updates on VAR testing and EPTS can also be found here.