Football: Video refs for 2018 World Cup

Fifa president Gianni Infantino at a congress of the South American Football Confederation in Santiago, Chile.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino at a congress of the South American Football Confederation in Santiago, Chile.PHOTO: AFP

Infantino says technology well received; Conmebol to clean up after losing millions

SANTIAGO • Video assistant referees will be used at next year's football World Cup in Russia for the first time.

"We will use video refereeing at the 2018 World Cup because we've had nothing but positive results so far," said Fifa president Gianni Infantino on Wednesday at a congress of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) in Santiago, Chile.

"In 2017, when everyone in the stadium or at home can see within seconds if the referee made a mistake, we can't have a situation where the only one who can't see it is the referee."

Video assistance was introduced to support referees with "game-changing" decisions for the first time in a Fifa competition at the Club World Cup in Japan in December. The four areas covered by the video replay official were goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

Infantino had already said that he wanted video refereeing for the next World Cup, but that "little hiccups" would have to be worked out first.

That included slow decision-making by video assistant referees in March. But that is only a matter of training, he said at the time.

"The referees... will be able to take decisions much faster when they use it more often," he said.

Later, Conmebol's head swore that the corruption cases that have rocked it in recent years would "never again" happen, as he described the organisation as a victim and pledged to try and recoup stolen funds.

Allegations of high-level corruption and criminal misconduct have buffeted world football since 2015, when several dozen officials, mainly from Latin America, were indicted in the United States on corruption-related charges.

Three former presidents of Conmebol are among those indicted, including 88-year-old Nicolas Leoz, who was head of the South American confederation for 27 years from 1986. The Paraguayan is under house arrest while he faces an extradition request from US authorities.

Conmebol delegates heard from lawyers how "hundreds of millions of dollars" meant for football development were diverted to third-party bank accounts.

Documents were displayed showing bank transactions of former members that could not be accounted for.

"Today is a historic day for South American football; what happened will never again happen in our federation," said Paraguayan Alejandro Dominguez, who was elected Conmebol president last year.

The phrase "never more", or "nunca mas" in Spanish, has strong resonance in South America, where it was used in the 1980s by panels investigating past human rights abuses.

Conmebol has decided that it would formally try to recoup the missing money, said Monserrat Jimenez, Conmebol's legal director.

"I am convinced that Conmebol will recover that money and it will go to where it should always have gone, the development of football," said Dominguez.