FIFA have approved the introduction of a new VAR-Lite system which could allow the game-changing technology to be introduced in the English Football League.
Currently, video assistant referees are only used in football’s top tiers, and cup competitions, but the game’s governing body wants them to be available at lower levels, too.
A meeting of the International Football Association Board (Ifab) on Friday sanctioned testing a new system, which will use fewer cameras and people, but still allows decisions to be reviewed.
VAR Lite could be introduced into the Championship and EFL under FIFA proposals
FIFA rules demand that VAR systems use a minimum of four cameras to assess offsides and “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents” in relation to goals, penalties, red cards and mistaken identity.
It also requires additional match officials.
However, FIFA are now looking at a system that makes use of one to three cameras and fewer people. The leagues in Northern Ireland and Wales have said they hope to be among the first to trial it.
Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA referees’ committee, said the changes would allow football associations, leagues and competitions that have been unable to afford the technology to implement it.
Pierluigi Collina has outlined FIFA plans to make VAR affordable for lower leagues
‘It is still expensive for many associations or lower category [competitions] in associations that have already implemented VAR in the main league,’ said Collina.
‘What we are exploring is, is it possible to do something in matches with a lower number of cameras to make it more affordable?
‘We are thinking about how to reduce the cost and human resources to make it more affordable Our goal is to make VAR available for more associations and also to [more] competitions.’
Sportsmail understands the use of VAR has already been raised by Championship clubs with the EFL and the matter is likely to be on the agenda when the league meets the Professional Match Officials, PGMOL, next week.
VAR has been used in the Carabao Cup and in grounds where it is not permanently installed
While the league would have to agree to introduce the system, PGMOL would operate it.
However, VAR’s implementation in the EFL would not be universally popular.
‘It slows the game down,’ one EFL club official told Sportsmail. ‘In the Premier League there is now that hesitation when a goal goes in. Is it a goal, or not? It takes away some of the spontaneity.’
There is also the pressing question of how the system would be paid for.
Cambridge United chief executive Ian Mather wants to see the detail of VAR proposals
‘The devil is in the detail,’ said Ian Mather, chief executive of Cambridge United. ‘Does VAR Lite mean it is not always accurate?
‘And who is going to pay for it? Clubs are struggling even without Covid. If the EFL paid for it, that is money not going to the clubs.’
Meanwhile, FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, gave a staunch defence of VAR at a press conference following the annual meeting of FIFA’s law-making body, Ifab.
‘Justice is everything, to have a correct decision’ said the FIFA president. ‘We have so many more correct decisions due to VAR. I prefer to win correctly rather than based on a mistake.’
Championship clubs have already raised the issue of VAR with the EFL in regular meetings
And Infantino suggested the system, which has been criticised for slowing down decision making in matches, adds to the excitement of the game.
‘It adds another level of adrenaline.’
FIFA is also looking at creating a ‘semi-automatic’ VAR system in the top tiers, which would pass information to assistant referees in real time to speed up offside decisions.
The system was due to be tested in the last year but coronavirus has delayed the project.
Mark Bullingham, chief executive of the Football Association, said he thought the system could be ‘a real step forward’.