The Premier League took some flak when it announced this past summer the league would not implement Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) this coming season, instead deciding to “continue testing” the technology.
That testing will progress this coming weekend, with the league implementing VAR in a number of matches. This testing will not actually affect the play on the field, but VAR booths and referees will act as if they are part of the crew, making calls and using booth replay without any actual contact to the refereeing crew on the field.
The games to be used for testing are Cardiff City’s trip to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal’s visit to Newcastle United, Manchester City against Fulham at the Etihad, and Crystal Palace’s road test at Huddersfield Town.
The Telegraph was the first to report the new phase of testing, and their report states the main focus of the multi-match testing is to make sure the VAR hub – located at Stockley Park just north of Heathrow Airport – can handle a number of matches at the same time.
UEFA is also in the same boat, hoping to implement VAR in next year’s Champions League. “For me, VAR is not completely clear, but we also know that there’s no way back anymore,” said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin last week. “Technology will come sooner or later. The plan for now is to use it from the next season.”
It will always take some time for referees to gain experience using the technology and how best to make use of it during live matchday situations, that has been true for every sport that has implemented some form of replay in recent years. In addition, expecting it to completely eliminate controversy from the game is simply unrealistic. However, this testing will only lessen the learning curve necessary for officials to being use next season, and it’s a positive development to see it used in mock situations in preparation for the real thing.