Video referees the catalyst for rule changes

LONDON • Video referees could help introduce key rule changes in 25 areas of the game such as awarding a penalty goal for a handball offence on the goal line, football's lawmaking body has said.

David Elleray, the technical director of the International Football Association Board (Ifab), said video assistant referees could trigger key changes to the handball rule to make the game fairer.

He said incidents like Luis Suarez's handball on the line during Uruguay's 2010 World Cup quarter-final match against Ghana was discussed. The African side missed the resulting penalty and a chance to reach the semi-finals.

"The Ifab is looking at 25 areas of the game aiming to make it fairer and handball is one of those," the 62-year-old former referee said.

The video assistance, which is being tested ahead of the 2018 World Cup, played a key role on Tuesday when it ruled out an offside goal from France striker Antoine Griezmann in a friendly against Spain.

A Spanish goal chalked off for offside was also overturned and ruled a goal as Spain won 2-0.

The experiment, however, earned mixed reviews. It was praised by most for being more fair but condemned by some for killing the spectacle.

"The refereeing resolved the two actions in a fair manner," said Spain manager Julen Lopetegui.

The new system might be more fair, admitted French captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, "but it also kills off the joy of scoring a goal".

The 80,000 spectators at the stadium were left out of the process with no video slow-motion screen to view and saw only the hand gestures of the referee, framing the shape of a TV screen, to show that he wanted a video review.

"That dehumanises the game a bit and can detract from the spectacle," said former referee Bruno Derrien. "Football is about sentiments, including that of injustice."

Use of technology to assist referees - favoured by Fifa president Gianni Infantino - was first introduced in the 2012 Club World Cup to determine whether the ball had crossed the goal-line.

Critics say the latest development signals a creeping-in of technology, which football has been slow to embrace in comparison with cricket and tennis.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Video referees the catalyst for rule changes'. Print Edition | Subscribe