The Video Assistant Referee is set to become a reality in domestic club competitions from the 2025-26 season, heralding a game-changing advantage for both Indian Super League and I-League teams, All India Football Federation acting secretary general M Satyanarayan said on Saturday.
The VAR technology, which was first used in FIFA events in 2016-17, supports the decision-making process of the referee in four game-changing situations: goals and offences leading up to a goal, penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty, direct red card incidents, and mistaken identity.
Many countries across the globe used VAR in their domestic club competitions after it was first introduced in Australia and the United States.
“There will be a big decision on the introduction of VAR very soon. We are doing a study on that,” AIFF acting secretary general M Satyanarayan told PTI in an interview.
“Introducing it next season might be difficult for the simple reason that FIFA has to approve the technology, there is a process. More than just getting the equipment, training of personnel takes a lot of time.
“It can be 2025-2026 season, but you never know. Even if we start now (the process), it will take a minimum of 18 to 20 months (to complete it),” added Satyanarayan, who became the acting secretary general on November 9 after the removal of Shaji Prabhakaran on “breach of trust”.
Implementing VAR technology will incur significant costs for the AIFF, but Satyanarayan emphasised the potential benefits for the Indian clubs.
“We have to see where the money is going to come from. But ultimately, it’s the clubs of the ISL and I-League (which are going to benefit).
The margins of victory or loss are sometimes 5 to 8 per cent, so we can get better results (with the use of VAR),” he said.
Throughout a match, the VAR team constantly checks for clear and obvious errors related to four match-changing situations.
The VAR team communicates with the on-field referee only for clear and obvious mistakes or serious missed incidents.
But it is ultimately the on-field referee who will take a call whether he needs help from the VAR.
Technically, the VAR has made its debut in a domestic tournament in March this year during the Santosh Trophy third-place classification match between Services and Punjab at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The semifinals and the final of the last edition of the national championships were held in Saudi Arabia.
The VAR technology was used on Indian soil on two occasions earlier — during the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in January-February 2022 from the quarterfinal stage and the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in October last year.
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