Women's game could use VAR

ZURICH • Fifa's organising committee announced on Monday that it would recommend the use of video assistant referee (VAR) technology at the Women's World Cup this summer for the first time.

The decision, which is expected to be approved by the governing Fifa Council when it meets later this month in Miami, is a victory for women footballers, coaches and fans who have highlighted gender equality issues in the international game.

VAR allows the on-pitch referee to consult a colleague viewing video replays to help confirm, or overturn, close calls in a narrow set of instances.

It was fully implemented for the first time at last June's World Cup in Russia, where Fifa hailed its introduction as a rousing success.

But, as the Women's World Cup came into view, Fifa repeatedly declined to confirm whether VAR would be used in that competition, turning the issue into another flashpoint - alongside artificial turf pitches, unequal compensation and bonuses - in the broader gender equity debate in the sport.

On the VAR point, at least, the debate seems finally to be settled. Fifa president Gianni Infantino said last weekend that he supported the use of the technology at the women's event in June, stating it was proving effective at discouraging the type of diving and playacting that often plague tournaments.

"Players now know that it's not just sufficient to have a look where is the referee, so if he doesn't see me, I can simulate, because he or she will be caught," he said. "That's why VAR helps the fight against simulation and diving in a very efficient way."

Zvonimir Boban, the deputy secretary-general of Fifa, also said in a statement: "Based on the thorough work carried out over the past few months, Fifa is happy with the steps taken and the excellent job done by Fifa's refereeing team and the female referees involved.

"We are confident about proposing the use of VAR in France to the Fifa Council, as we are very positive about its implementation."

United States defender and 2015 Women's World Cup winner Becky Sauerbrunn felt the impending implementation was just a matter of common sense.

"For me, it's why not?" she said. "Why not give it to the women if you give it to the men?"

NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline 'Women's game could use VAR'. Print Edition | Subscribe