Video Assistant Referees are set to be used at this year’s World Cup in Russia after the system was unanimously approved on a permanent basis at the International Football Association Board’s annual general meeting.
The football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had one vote each, while FIFA – representing all other national federations – had four, with six required for a change in the laws.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who chaired the meeting, said at a press conference in Zurich on Saturday: “Together with our colleagues we have taken some very important decisions today.
“We had, as you can imagine, a very intense morning, fully aware of our responsibility to take an important decision for football.
“This topic was discussed and debated for decades. VAR is good for football, is good for refereeing, it brings more fairness in the game and, for these reasons, we have decided to approve VAR.”
Following the IFAB’s unanimous approval, it is almost certain that the FIFA Council will sanction the use of the VAR system at this summer’s World Cup in Russia when it meets in Colombia later this month, and Infantino is confident it will have a positive effect.
“Of course it will have an impact on the World Cup and on the matches, and it will have a positive impact on the matches, this is what the studies show,” he said.
“From the 1,000 matches, approximately, that were part of the experiment, the level of accuracy of the decisions taken by the referees increased to 99 per cent.
“It’s almost perfect. Perfection in our world does not exist, but VAR certainly gets us closer.”
The VAR trials in England have thrown up a number of controversies, with particular criticism over how long decisions take and the fact the crowds are not kept informed as to what is going on.
The system was labelled “embarrassing” by Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino earlier this week after his team’s FA Cup fifth-round replay against Rochdale was delayed several times by VAR interventions.
Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn admitted Erik Lamela’s early strike at Wembley should have stood, rather than been ruled out for a seemingly innocuous shirt-tug by Fernando Llorente.
He said: “What happens early on, and we saw it in Italy and Germany, the VARs are so desperate to get everything right and support their colleagues on the pitch, they’re probably calling out too many things.
“We saw that in the Spurs-Rochdale match. The disallowed first goal for Spurs wasn’t ‘clear and obvious’ in my view and was probably, well, was a mistake and should not have been called out.
“That’s fine, let’s admit mistakes. It’s a test. Good, we learn from it.”
Glenn continued: “Communication to the crowd has to be better because people aren’t really sure what’s going on.
“I’m not going to ignore the criticism, but I think we have to put things into context – it’s only been 10 games… FA Cup games, some EFL Cup games. We need more games until we get the sort of quality we see in Italy, Germany, Portugal, but we will.”
Sports minister Tracey Crouch on Friday joined the chorus of concern about the introduction of VAR.
In a tweet to Press Association Sport, she wrote: “VAR in football should learn from rugby and cricket where fans can share the viewing experience. Keeping fans in the dark for 2 mins like at Spurs this week is bad for the pace and passion of football.”
It is understood these concerns are also shared by the Premier League, which has so far sat back and watched VAR being trialled in the Carabao and FA Cups.
In a statement, a Premier League spokesperson said: “We are open to considering new technology that assists match officials without disrupting the flow of the game, and are monitoring closely the video assistant referee trials being conducted in other competitions.
“The evidence and learning provided by those trials will inform further discussions with our clubs later this season.”