Sunday 22 April 2018

Infantino still cautious as video technology trials get green light

New FIFA President Gianni Infantino attends the Barclays Premier League match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea, yesterday. Photo: David Davies/PA
New FIFA President Gianni Infantino attends the Barclays Premier League match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea, yesterday. Photo: David Davies/PA

Owen Gibson

Football's international lawmakers have approved live trials of video technology to aid referees in what new FIFA president Gianni Infantino claimed as a "historic decision". Following a meeting of the International FA Board in Cardiff, it was confirmed that live trials will start by 2017-18 at the latest, bringing football a key step closer to following rugby and cricket in using video technology.

Jonathan Ford, chief executive of the Football Association of Wales, said it was important to proceed carefully and that non-live trials would precede the use of technology in matches in order to ensure it worked properly. The board ruled out for now the idea of managers being able to challenge decisions and will instead concentrate on a two-year trial across the world of the new system.

Infantino said there had been 12 expressions of interest from football associations and one from an entire continental confederation, believed to be Conmebol. The English FA has already said it is keen to trial the technology in the FA Cup and Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan said it would also look to introduce it in the Scottish Cup. Martin Glenn, the FA chief executive, said it was important to maintain the flow of the game and Ford said if the experiment was deemed unsuccessful at the end of the two-year period, the idea would be abandoned.

"It's a period of testing - we don't want to spoil the fluidity or the beauty of the game," said Ford. "We want to ensure we have the benefits of video technology, but avoid some of the pitfalls."

Infantino's former boss, the suspended UEFA president Michel Platini, was against using video technology, but the new FIFA president said it was an important step.

"We have shown we are listening to the fans, to the players, to football and we are applying common sense," he said. "We are cautious, but we are also looking to take concrete measures and concrete steps forward to ensure a new era has started not only in FIFA, but IFAB."

A "handful" of applicants will be accepted to go ahead with the trials, which will involve pictures from a set number of multiple cameras being analysed by video referees. The match official will then be free either to take the advice of the video technician or analyse the incident himself via an iPad-type device on the halfway line.

According to IFAB, the video officials will only be called on in four defined "game-changing" scenarios: when a goal has been scored, penalty decisions, sendings off and possible cases of mistaken identity. The detail of both the experimental phase and the live trials is yet to be fully worked out, including how and when the match should be stopped.

Advocates of video technology point to its application in other sports, including rugby and cricket, but opponents worry about the potential to undermine the sanctity of the referee's decisions and the possible impact on the flow of the game. Glenn said one of the key questions would be: "Does it disturb the fundamental fluidity of football?"

For years, FIFA resisted the introduction of first goalline technology and then video refereeing, but former president Sepp Blatter had a change of heart about the first following the 2010 World Cup and then reversed his opposition to the second in 2014.

"Football is the No 1 sport in the world. We simply have to show we're listening and applying common sense," said Infantino. "If we want to be serious about things, we have to test them. We have to test, to experiment and draw conclusions."

The IFAB board, consisting of the four home nations and four representatives from FIFA, took two other key decisions. So-called triple jeopardy will be outlawed - if a player makes a genuine attempt to play the ball in the box when conceding a penalty, they will no longer be sent off. The change will be introduced for a two-year trial period from June. There was also an agreement in principle to experimentation with a fourth substitution in extra-time, although Ford said more data was required before making a final decision.


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