- Video assistant referees have been used throughout Korea Republic 2017
- First youth tournament for them to feature at
- Bjorn Kuipers: "Very important to have someone there to correct me”
While outstanding goals and superb football have been generating excitement among fans at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017, the use of video assistant referees (VARs) has also, unsurprisingly, caught onlookers’ attention.
Having made its FIFA tournament debut at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2016, its deployment on the Asian peninsula has been its most prominent test to date, with the system still in an experimental phase.
“It’s not just been important, it’s been very important,” referee Bjorn Kuipers told FIFA.com. “We have to get used to it. It has to be a part of the game now and we have to trust the system.”
Kuipers, who has refereed a FIFA Confederations Cup and UEFA Champions League final, and officiated at Brazil 2014, was involved with FIFA’s first ‘offline’ test nine months ago and has seen the process develop to where it stands today. “I am seeing the progress and I’m really, really happy,” he said.
“I’m not a referee who wants to be an authority on the field of play. If I make a big mistake, I’m very happy to have a referee in the van tell me, ‘Bjorn, in this situation you are completely wrong’. It’s very important to have someone there to correct me.”
Situations where the VAR can be used
- Penalty decisions
- Red cards
- Cases of mistaken identity
With the introduction of the system having such a fundamental influence on how the game is refereed, the 88 officials – both on-field and VAR – in Korea Republic dedicated an entire week of pre-tournament training to assessing scenarios when it can and cannot be used.
“It’s not so easy; you have to learn it,” he explained. “You have to learn to ride a bicycle, you have to learn to play football and you also have to learn how and when to use VAR.”
“Usually we have a very good performance from the referee and we’re very happy,” video assistant referee Nawaf Shukralla told FIFA TV. “The VAR is there to support the referee and support the player, too. We’re not against the player. We're there to help the game, help the referee and help the player.”
While referee familiarity with the system is increasing and both players and coaches’ comfort in it growing - “you can see that they trust the referee team and the VAR” - Kuipers accepts that the challenge is going to be fully informing fans of when the process can and cannot be implemented. “Not only in the stadium, but all around the world,” the Dutchman admitted.
“If we are to use the VAR, as this is still an experiment, we have to make the things clear to everybody. As many people don’t know the procedure and how we are going to use the system.
“People have to know when we can use the VAR and when we can’t – which we have to make clear to everybody – as football has to be football and the referee has to be the referee.”