MOSCOW: If there were any doubts about how much spotlight the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) would steal from players and coaches at the World Cup, those were laid to rest on Tuesday. When FIFA’s head of refereeing Massimo Busacca and the chairman of their refereeing committee Pierluigi Collina volunteered to sit down and answer everyone’s doubts about VAR, more than a hundred journalists turned up.
“The average playing time per match in the Brazil World Cup was 57 minutes. That means for 33 minutes, there was no football,” Busacca thundered, when asked about disruptions that VAR can cause. “How long is a video review? One minute? One minute, ten seconds? One minute, 20 seconds?”
Promoting VAR has been one of FIFA’s top priorities in the run-up to the World Cup. They held conferences in Italy and Dubai, had a high-profile opening ceremony for the tournament’s VAR centre — the room where the main video referee and his three assistants will review footage from 33 cameras, eight of which record in slow motion — on the outskirts of Moscow, last week. Tuesday’s press conference was unusually long — Collina and Busacca, flanked by Uzbekistan’s Ravshan Irmatov who will officiate in his third World Cup and Brazil’s Sandro Ricci, who will be the fourth-official in the tournament opener, talked for more than an hour.
While the referees acknowledged the recent controversies caused by VAR in leagues around the world, they were adamant that it was a step that had to be taken. “We know that it cannot be an experiment here,” Busacca said. “We are positive, we are ready. We played football for 100 years without VAR and we committed many mistakes.”
Busacca stressed upon the importance of making sure why a referee made a particular decision using VAR. “A clip of the incident will be shown around the stadium, the same clip that convinced the referee,” he said. Referees reviewing a situation involving mass confrontation will have up to ten minutes with the video, he added.
Collina also lent some insight into how referees have prepared for this event. “As I told the referees this morning, at the headquarters here at the Hilton, it is not the time to speak, to talk. It is the time to act,” he said.
“They are very eager to kick-off the first match. Once we arrived here with all the officials, we organised a mini-tournament with eight local teams to offer our referees the chance to get into a rhythm, to get back soon to their business. It was very positive, the outcome was very good. During these matches, there was also the chance to use the technology, which is the new thing at the 2018 World Cup.”