Lawmakers resist pressure for rush to hasty judgment on VAR and offside

BELFAST, March 1, 2020 – Football lawmakers will not enact – as a surprisingly high number of observers had expected – any changes to the offside law or video assistance.

The International Board simply does not work that way and, in any case, angry headlines and comments from the English Premier League environment were always due to engender more resistance than acquiescence.

However the annual meeting of IFAB decided in Belfast to review the offside law over the next 12 months to “foster the spirit of attacking play”.

David Elleray, the former English referee who is technical director at IFAB, said the aim was to look at offside in a philosophical manner given the introduction of VAR.

He said: “Assistant referees were always told (in the past), ‘if in doubt, given the benefit of doubt to the attacking team’. What technology, VAR and non-VAR, has done is actually taken that doubt away.

“Ideas about how you judge offside, in one sense, won’t change because you will always have the question of where do you draw the line?

“Football is saying to us that we don’t think that your toe being two centimetres in front of the end of a defender is a significant enough advantage to be penalised.

“It is not going to change the accuracy it is saying, philosophically how do we want offside? Is it appropriate for us to say, can we change the law to restore more benefit to attacking football?”

Elleray also said he would be “astonished” if the Premier League did not fall in line with the IFAB advise to encourage referees in the use of pitchside monitors so they can regain control of the game.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said there would also look at ways to introduce VAR in competitions with “restricted budgets”, what the Swiss called “VAR Lite”.

The organisation also said it will try out the use of additional substitutions for concussion cases with FIFA saying it is ready to introduce trials at this year’s Olympic Games starting in July.

IFAB statement:

The International Football Association Board (The IFAB) at its 134th Annual General Meeting (AGM), held in Belfast, Northern Ireland agreed to draw up protocols to be used in trials for substitutions in cases of concussion.

Following feedback from the recent meeting of the Concussion Expert Group (CEG), The IFAB also agreed that more research data is required before proposing possible changes to the Laws of the Game. FIFA indicated a strong interest in having trials at the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Games football tournament in July 2020, with other competitions also being able to take part in the trials.

The AGM agreed to consultation with all the relevant stakeholders, including The IFAB Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) and the Football Advisory Panel (FAP), to review the offside Law to foster the spirit of attacking play.

The IFAB will continue to look at measures within the Laws of the Game to tackle mobbing of match officials and confrontations between players which should have no place in the game.

Members were updated on the use of video assistant referees (VARs) around the world, highlighting the success of this innovation, while also considering future developments, including improving communication and potential technological advances.

The meeting also agreed on the importance of finding solutions to allow competitions with restricted budgets to be able to access and use VARs, with such solutions being led by the working group for innovation excellence that has been established by FIFA.

The AGM reviewed the changes to the 2019/20 Laws of the Game and noted their positive impact on the way the game is played and the image of the game. The AGM also approved clarifications to several existing Laws to the 2020/21 Laws of the Game. These changes relate to Law 10 (yellow cards are not carried forward into kicks from the penalty mark), Law 12 (handball, to differentiate more clearly between the arm and shoulder) and other clarifications.

The meeting was chaired by the president of the Irish FA, David Martin, and was attended by representatives from FIFA, led by the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, the FA, the FA of Wales, Scottish FA and The IFAB’s administration.

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