January 10, 2016

News from IFAB: Video Referees and Further Proposals

At last, football's lawmakers - the International Football Association Board (IFAB) - have cleared the way for Video Referees in football. A concept that is already applied in sports hockey or rugby thus might soon take the heat off referees in critical game situations. Moreover, further proposals have been lodged with the intention to remove inconsistencies from the Laws of the Game.

In the Netherlands, a pilot programme is going to be launched starting next season. The KNVB will test the deployment of an additional Video Referee located outside of the stadium. How that is supposed to work can be read on DutchReferee's blog and watched in this video where UEFA 1st Group official Danny Makkelie simulates the role of the Video Referee.

Check some other examples collected from different kinds of sports, such as rugby. In that example, the Video Referee confirms the on-field-perception of the referee.


If you move to 4:00, you can see that Video Referees might also have the potential to take crucial black-or-white-decisions that literally decide a game ("golden goal principle"). As he was unsure whether the player scored the goal "deliberately" with his feet or shoe, the referee consulted a Video Referee.

Michel Platini's words seem to come true. With FIFA having considered to implement Goalline Technology back in 2012/13, the currently suspended UEFA president said "Where does it stop?" and hence expressed his fear to technologize football and football refereeing. 

In early March (from 4 to 6), the IFAB - definitely not the most democratical of football governing bodies considering its members' composition - will take a decision with regard to that.

Back in 2015, the English FA has already consulted all Premier League clubs in form of a questionnaire to collect proposals and feedback on how and whether Video Referees should be installed.

When we come closer to the IFAB judgment at their annual meeting, we are going to discuss pros and cons that would arise from their deployment. I am already interested in your view on the principle question today though: Do you support the idea of a Video Referee in football in general?

Do you support the idea of Video Referees in Football?


Furthermore, the IFAB has made further proposals regarding some inconsistencies in the Laws of the Game. Of course, they do not touch on really important matters such as added offside clarifications or handball. Specially the latter stays the largest blind spot of most referees and the lawbook from my point of view.

In a 12.000 word document, David Elleray formulated the IFAB's suggestions. In short, they plan to change these aspects:

1) Kick-Off:

For some years, the ball has to move forward at the kick-off. If players failed to do that, the kick-off had to be repeated. Most amateur referees will know what I mean that this was quite exhausting specially considering matches on young-age-levels where results such as 13:0 are quite common (and most players do not know that the ball has to move forward at these 15 kick-offs...).
This should be changed according to the proposal. The ball has to move - but it can do so into any direction.

2) Pre-Match-Red-Cards

In future, red cards should be possible for pre-match-fights and similar infringements, e.g. happening in the tunnel before lining up.

3) Leaving the field after treatment

Elleray and co. consider it as unfair if a player fouled in a way that made the offender be cautioned or even sent off, his team would be reduced to ten men until his medical treatment is completed. At the moment, players have to leave the pitch even for short treatments. In future, if a player gets a YC or RC for a tackle, players fouled would be allowed to stay on the field. The question is: Would not that lead to more protests and shouts for cards against opponents?

4) Quick Returns

In future, also an assistant referee or the fourth official would be entitled to check the players' equipment during play (e.g. if someone leaves the pitch to change his boots). Formerly, referees had to check the equipment before he is allowed to re-enter the pitch.

5) Grabbing opponents:

Elleray told the AP: "Two players go off the field of play. One tries to get back on to play the ball, and the other one grabs him off the field of play to stop him going back on. At the moment the referee gives a red or yellow card and restarts with a drop ball, which is clearly wrong. So we will be giving a free kick on the touchline or the goal-line. If it's inside the penalty area, it can be a penalty kick."

6) Blocking Goals

If a non-playing player such a substitute blocks a goal by illegally entering the field of play, an indirect free-kick will be awarded. The Laws of the Game however define that if the same offence is done by a team official such as a doctor, a drop ball is to be awarded. Elleray and co. consider this as "wrong for football" and propose free-kicks or penalty kicks in future.

7) Penalty Shoot-Outs

If a team gets a player sent-off during the penalty shoot-out, formerly the offending team had to select their best player who would have shot two penalties if the score had been sth like 10:10 or any other equalized score. The non-offending team had to select all their eleven players including the goalkeeper. As it is considered as unfair that a guilty team is allowed to score two goals by their best player, both teams will be reduced to the number of players the more guilty team has before the shoot-out.

8) Offside Free-Kick Position

In future, an indirect free-kick will always be given where he commits the offside offence and NOT where exactly he was in an offside position. Due to the wait-and-see-technique and current form of Law 11, a player is in a punishable offside position if he interferes with a player or an opponent for example. So it might be that at the moment of the pass, he is 10 metres inside the opponents' half but runs back to challenge an opponent who will receive the pass, maybe even in his own half. It is supposed to be that position which matters and not from where he started.

9) Logos on corner-flags

Club logos are soon supposed to be accepted on corner-flags which was for now a violation of the Laws of the Game.

10) Common Sense

Elleray underlined the importance to remind all referees to think less in black-or-white-schemes. Referees should act in accordance with common sense, match feeling and the spirit of the game. 
"That means, for example, in the grass-roots game, not abandoning a match if one of the four corner flags is broken.", Elleray said.


  1. 4 and 7 have yet been common practiced! No changes here.

    1. The change in No 7 is in the case that a player is sent off during the shoot-out. Then the other team is also reduced. Until now, this happened only before the shoot-out.
      This is clearer in the reference than in this post.

  2. So you are the video referee and have such a decision to make:


    I'm sure there will be situations that will be judged differently dependent on who is in front of screen...

    1. Very simple.

      The person in front of the screen is usually a very experienced referee who has benefit of replays. If any doubt that this is handling, same as an on-field decision.

      If I'm video referee, there's no doubt here. This player deliberately pushed ball away from attacker (he had time to pull his hand away). PK and Caution.

    2. So who do you put behind the screen? If you have Nicola Rizzoli/Jonas Eriksson/Björn Kuipers on the field, what kind of referee would be "more experienced"?

    3. In Holland, for example Pieter Vink has stated that he would like to be a video-referee. I think that he has the needed experience to take difficult decisions. And the video-referee does not necessarily have to be a more experienced referee than Kuipers/Rizzoli. He needs to be an experienced referee, who is able to take the decisions that the referee on the pitch can't take.

    4. Of course, that kind of candidates would be perfect. However, my point is that many decisions depend on interpretation; the 'most valid' interpretations, as a very general rule, are those of the most experienced referees. In general, you would listen to Howard Webb before you listen to a beginner in the Premier League (although I am in no way suggesting that elite referees are always right). So, I come back to the situation: if you have an elite referee on the field, and a situation that is somewhat controversial (not a case of mistaken identity or a situation that the referee did not see), who has the gravitas and 'right' to overrule the referee? In the end, two referees may end up contradicting each other. Also, will the referee be required to follow the instructions of the video referee? How could he dare disagree?

  3. All the changes benefit the game. :)

  4. I could be in favour, cautiously, if only the referee can ask for advice. I would not want the video referee intervening in the middle of a game while play is 'live' to call a penalty or a card. The reason is simple: refereeing is, in large part, a matter of interpretation, and adding a layer of interpretation (and interpreters) will not solve anything. So, the video referee can help the referee when he/she doesn't have all the information, or when there is doubt about if what he saw was correct. Similarly, if a referee knows an incident happened, but cannot identify culprits (for instance, who started a mass confrontation), the video referee could assist. But, again, we do not want a video referee taking over the job of the referee.

    1. I agree, fearing that what most team officials / club presidents and comparable populists often claim is exactly what you described in your last sentence..

      There are other situations where even a replay cannot show a 100% clear solution. I am going to show some of them in the next post when reflecting pros and cons.

      Let me say that compared to maybe 1-2 years ago, my personal opposition against any form of video referee diffused for a certain part. But still I can't imagine how all that should work.

  5. ad 2) Will the team of a sent off player only lose a substitute or also one substitution, i.e. be allowed to make only two substitutions?

    1. Don't the Laws already cover this? Normal number of substitutions, 1 fewer subs.

  6. Germany's Bundesliga will also test video referees in the coming season depending on IFAB's judgment in March.

  7. Now live on YouTube: Dutch premier division match Feyenoord - Heerenveen with the focus on the videoreferee. The videoreferee isn't connected with the referee but you see how they're working. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwccHLgpCkg


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