Sunday 21 January 2018

Premier League trials 'secret' video reviews

Video-technology trials are being conducted in Premier League matches this season. Photo: PA
Video-technology trials are being conducted in Premier League matches this season. Photo: PA

Ben Rumsby

Video-technology trials are being conducted in Premier League matches this season.

Unofficial tests have taken place that could herald the advent of live video referrals in English football as early as next season.

England has yet to sign up to formal trials that are already being conducted in other countries but it has been confirmed that non-live experiments began this season at the Premier League's new Match Centre just outside London.

The tests involve two officials, known as video assistant referees, watching live feeds of games and practising how they might intervene were they in communication with the referee.

The format of the trials is similar to the 'man-in-the-van' experiments which took place at matches in Holland before the sport's rulemakers, the International Football Association Board, gave approval for live testing of video referrals this year.

Non-live trials have been conducted during 12 Premier League games, which have flagged up between two and four decisions per match that would qualify for video analysis.

Reviews of these incidents - limited to those involving goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity - have typically taken no more than 40 seconds.


If the experiments prove successful, the Premier League could move to live trials next season, which would mean refereeing decisions in England being overturned by instant video review for the first time.

Confirming non-live trials were already under way, the head of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, Mike Riley, said: "Technology that can help referees in making the correct decision without disrupting the flow of the game will be considered.

"The IFAB has committed to experimenting for a minimum of two years and it's important to use that time to identify the best way to use technology to benefit the game.

"We have trialled using video assistant referees for 12 Premier League games so far this season. This has been in a non-live environment, which means there has been no contact with the officials at the games. We will continue with these trials throughout the season."

Confirmation of the Premier League experiments came a day after Fifa conducted the second live test of video referrals in a senior international fixture. Tuesday's goalless friendly between Italy and Germany included three incidents that were examined using a Hawk-Eye-developed system, including a goal ruled out for offside by Kevin Volland.

The other two were when Andrea Belotti went down under pressure in the area and when Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan was booked for diving in the box under challenge from Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian.

Italy also played in the first international to use video referrals, against France in September, when two incidents were examined but not overturned by a pair of officials in a truck outside the stadium.

Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, declared afterwards: "We turned a new page in football's history book."

Further experiments are planned during March's next round of friendlies, with England's game in Germany understood to be a prime candidate. Live trials are also being conducted elsewhere, including in Holland's domestic cup competition, which in September witnessed the first sending off in a professional game as a result of a video referral.

All live experiments involve a video assistant referee having access to replays during the match and either reviewing an incident on request by the referee or communicating with the referee proactively about an incident that may have been missed.

The tests will take place for two years before the IFAB decides whether to change the laws of the game in time for referrals to be used at every match at the next World Cup, something Infantino is lobbying for.

The Premier League is in a race to be the first major European league to conduct live trials. The president of the Italian Referees' Association revealed this week that they could begin in Serie A next season.

Marcello Nicchi told GR Parlamento radio: "There have been cases when video assistant referees could have been if not decisive, at least supportive.

"There have been fewer than four cases in which the referees would have been able to fall back on video assistance, but we hope to deliver this [system] as soon as possible.

"We hope to accelerate its implementation and then, in a few years, we could open up a protocol to add other incidents [in which the video assistant referees can be used] to the list."


England was at the vanguard of the introduction of goal-line technology four years ago, including staging a trial at Wembley during a friendly against Belgium.

The Football Association had considered putting this season's FA Cup forward for the live video-referral experiments but ultimately decided not to.

The Premier League also opted against signing up to the live trials but this season's non-live tests indicate it is in favour in principle of expanding the use of technology and is preparing properly for any change to the rules on referrals, something that appears increasingly inevitable.

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