PSL braces itself for R30m cost of video referees

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PSL braces itself for R30m cost of video referees

VAR could be introduced to local soccer next season

Soccer writer

Video referees will be allowed worldwide from March and are already confirmed for the World Cup and could be introduced in the Premier Soccer League from the start of next season.
The PSL, which had previously dismissed using the video technology to assist match officials with continuous decisions as too expensive, is now in negotiations with a sponsor to be able to introduce VAR in the next campaign.
It would help the league keep up a reputation among the leading 20 domestic competitions in world football and the best run on the African continent as the gulf between the First World leagues and the rest is likely to be expanded by the introduction of the expensive technology.
The International FA Board (IFAB), the game’s law-making body, will formally allow the VAR system at their annual meeting in Zurich on March 3, having already last month recommended that it be approved for use.
Two years ago they allowed a window of experimentation.Fifa has already said it would be using the system at the World Cup and the Confederation of African Football used it for the first time at the recently completed African Nations Championship in Morocco, where Victor Gomes became the first South African referee exposed to the system.
VAR has been tested over the last 24 months in England’s Premier League (from the start of the year), Serie A in Italy, the Bundesliga, Portuguese Primeira Liga and North America’s Major League Soccer.
Academics at Belgium’s KU Leuven University, who have told the IFAB their findings were “positive and encouraging”, collated data from the experiments.
But introducing the system will present many challenges for South Africa, not least the considerable cost. It will cost the league up to an estimated R30-million to keep it going.
It also means that television will now have to fill all PSL games to make it fair. The vast majority of games are screened on either SuperSport or the SABC or both but there are still a few matches every week that are not on air and at which there are no cameras.
A full TV production, with a minimum of 12 matches, is need for VAR to work although the refereeing system necessitates another van kitted out with the necessary equipment. Each van costs in the region of R5-million.In the van there are at least four added personnel – two referees to watch the game, one to review incidents, and the other keeping a consistent eye on the live action, and a linesman who makes offside calls only. A technician to run the equipment is also needed.
The three officials in the van must all be from the current refereeing panel which means that the list of match officials for the PSL and National First Division needs to be seriously expanded next season if the system is to work.
There will also have to be considerable investment in training because the system has fallen down during the past two years because of poor interpretation.
“It’s about communicating what is going on to the general public and that is where we have seen some confusion and inconsistency. There has been criticism that has been levied at VAR but it’s not VAR that has been the issue, it’s the whole communication,” said former Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan, who was a member of the IFAB until his resignation last week.
VAR can only be used in four areas:

Goals and whether there was a violation during the buildup;
Penalty decisions;
Red card decisions (second yellow cards are not reviewable); and
Mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card. 

It cannot be used for other decisions during the game such as foul tackles.
The Belgian academics found that only 31.2% of matches during the trial called for the use of VAR and, in those games, 56.9% of checks were for goals and penalty incidents.
The average length of time taken to check with VAR was 20 seconds and the median when a decision to take a full review was a minute, suggesting it does not take away from the pace of the game...

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