Uefa is set to use video assistant referees (VAR) for the knockout rounds of this season’s Champions League in a volte-face that will be confirmed at a meeting in Dublin on 3 December.
After the resounding success of VAR at this summer’s Fifa World Cup, Uefa planned to introduce the technology for next season’s competition but according to The Times it has decided to have VAR in place for February’s last-16 phase of the Champions League.
The VAR technology is available for four game-changing situations: goals (and incidents leading to them), penalties, cases of mistaken identity and red cards.
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Never a penalty
The absence of VAR in the group stage has already provided the competition with some controversial moments, notably the penalty awarded to Manchester City after Raheem Sterling was brought down in the Shakhtar Donetsk area. Television replays revealed that the England striker was not fouled but had stubbed his foot in the turf.
The Times reports that “moves to fast-track the system were already under way before the Sterling incident”, but the controversy underlined the need to deploy it as rapidly as possible.
A Uefa source told the paper that the decision to bring forward VAR’s implementation was because its match officials have been schooled in its use quicker than they envisaged.
Consequently VAR will be in use from the last-16 of the Champions League through to the final in Madrid on 1 June, and also at that month’s knockout phase of the Nations League finals, which will involve England. VAR is not expected to be deployed in the Europa League until next season, although it may be used in the final.
Premier League succumbs
The Premier League is the only leading club competition in Europe not using VAR after clubs voted against its introduction for the 2018-19 season. It wasn’t a unanimous vote, however, and Southampton manager Mark Hughes recently railed against the absence of VAR, accusing the EPL of being “in the dark ages”.
But its use in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup has been a success overall and the Premier League confirmed earlier this month that clubs have agreed “in principle” for the technology to be used from the 2019-20 season onward.
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