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Picture: 123RF/BOWIE 15
Picture: 123RF/BOWIE 15

Doha — World football governing body Fifa is confident semi-automated technology to assist with quicker video assistant referee (VAR) decisions could be ready for the World Cup in Qatar later this year, president Gianni Infantino said on Monday.

Trials on the AI technology will continue in the coming months but Infantino said there was significant progress.

“We tested it at the Club World Cup and it looks very good. We are very satisfied and we will take a decision before the tournament,” Infantino told a news conference in Doha after the meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which regulates the laws of the game.

Pierluigi Collina, chair of Fifa’s referees committee, added: “I’m confident it can go ahead.”

Semi-automated VAR, which will enable offside to be detected in seconds, uses automated ball detection and creates three-dimensional models of a player’s position instantly.

IFAB ratified, as expected, the use of five substitutes into the laws of the game. It was introduced as a tweak to the rules because of the Covid-19 pandemic but has now become permanent, though its use in different competitions will remain at the discretion of the body organising the matches.

The English Premier League, for example, had allowed five substitutes when the idea was floated by Fifa in May 2020 but reverted to three subs for the past two seasons. It has, however, agreed to five substitutes being permitted from next season.

It was also decided to increase the maximum number of substitutes on the bench from 12 to 15 — again at the discretion of the competition organising body. These changes come into effect on July 1.

The IFAB also discussed attacks on referees and the possibility of body cameras being worn, which would act as a deterrent as well as for collecting evidence. 

“Referees will profit from the possible protection [from attacks], which sadly still take place in many parts of the world,” Infantino said. “We have attacks on them from players, officials, spectators and parents and we have to be very firm in that respect.”

He said more trials on tweaking the offside law and making decisions less marginal would continue in junior tournaments in Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Finding ways for better timekeeping would be tested. “It is not acceptable that a game of 90 minutes [can] actually only have the ball in play for 47-48 minutes on average. We have to look into that,” Infantino added.



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