Football World Cup team coaches gathered on Tuesday in Russia ahead of a crunch decision on whether to introduce the VAR video replay system at this summer’s tournament. The last meeting of the 32 participating nations before the June 14-July 15 global extravaganza comes with debate still raging about the controversial Video Assistant Referee technology.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said on Monday that European football’s governing body would not use it in next season’s Champions League because “nobody knows exactly how it works yet”. But global body FIFA has been pushing hard for VAR use in game-changing situations such as goals and penalty decision. “I used to be sceptical about VAR but statistics now show 99 percent perfection,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said earlier this month.
The ruling on whether to use VAR for the first time at a World Cup will be issued on Saturday in Zurich by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). This means the two-day gathering in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi will leave teams none the wiser about how exactly the World Cup will be refereed. Several of the big European leagues have started using VAR, to mixed reviews.
Controversies have dogged calls made in England and Italy. The Sochi gathering is meant to give coaches a rundown about how the World Cup will be organised in Russia. It represent a logistical challenge for both the hosts and teams because of the great distances they will have to travel between the 11 host cities. Another worry is that some of the stadiums have still not been completed.
“We don’t want surprises,” Iran’s Portugese coach Carlos Queiroz told AFP before the start of the meeting. “We don’t like surprises.”