FIFA has taken full operational control of Video Assistant Referees [VARs], world football’s governing body has informed all associations.
Mattias Grafstrom, FIFA’s deputy general secretary for football, told all 211 associations in a letter on June 29.
The International Football Association Board [IFAB], football’s lawmakers, have previously worked closely with FIFA on the development and implementation of VAR in all competitions, including technological matter, training and education.
Grafstrom’s letter states: “We are proud that the introduction of VARs has been a universal success, with the implementation of the VAR system now complete in over 100 competitions globally.
“Following the successful launch period where FIFA worked in conjunction with The IFAB, we would like to inform you that all VAR-related activities will now transfer to FIFA.”
All VAR-related questions, comments or suggestions have been directed to FIFA from July 1.
FIFA will continue to work with IFAB on matters involving VAR protocol, the Laws of the Game or approval requirements.
IFAB secretary Lukas Brud has told Sky Sports News it was always the intention for VAR’s operational plans to be taken over by FIFA.
Last December Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s chief of global football development, called on Premier League referees to use pitchside monitors before making decisions using VAR.
“That, for me, is the most important worry,” said Wenger, after a meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in Belfast.
“The referee needs to have a monitor to check if he was right or wrong. He will gain in credibility, especially, knowing that the people at VAR have yet the experience to make these kinds of decisions. He has a review to see if he was right or wrong. That is important for his confidence as well.”
He added: “I think it’s working much better than we think. You want VAR to intervene at the right moment. They are not the ones who should make the decisions but the ones who help the referees make the right decisions.”
FIFA’s full control of VAR will be viewed as a ‘land grab’ by some observers, and there is no downplaying its significance.
Pierluigi Collina and Arsene Wenger, both hugely influential voices inside FIFA, have shared their frustrations over VAR’s inconsistent use in some competitions around the world.
Collina, as chair of the FIFA referees’ committee, has called for universal consistency and Wenger, who oversees football development, has been critical of the lack of pitchside monitor use by Premier League referees.
The technical director of lawmakers IFAB is David Elleray, a former Premier League referee, so English football may feel it has lost a powerful ally in the operational running of VAR.
Has VAR now lost its independence? That question will be asked by Premier League referees, without doubt, but it is too soon to assess the impact of FIFA’s new control.
As IFAB points out, this handover was always going to happen. They cover the laws of the game, run experiments, and some IFAB staff have now transferred to FIFA on a permanent basis to continue to support the day-to-day running of video referees.
Elleray is going nowhere, so the Premier League has not lost its connection to a key figure in the game.
But, in the hotly-disputed world of VAR, we can expect FIFA to flex its muscle even more.
The Premier League will be anxiously watching their next steps.