Will VAR technology raise Singapore’s football game?
The video assistant referee system will be featured in the country's professional football league from this season.
SINGAPORE: Singapore hopes having the video assistant referee (VAR) system will boost the country's chances of hosting major football tournaments, and open the doors for more local referees to officiate on the global stage.
VAR technology will be introduced to the Singapore Premier League (SPL) for the upcoming season, after the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) recently got the green light to use it in the country's professional football league.
VAR technology is already a staple in top football leagues in Europe and Asia. Singapore will become the 11th Asian country to use VAR in its local professional league.
FAS had passed a final assessment by the world football governing body FIFA after an implementation process that started last February, during which visits by FIFA personnel and regular VAR training for local match officials were conducted.
REDUCING BAD REFEREEING CALLS
With VAR serving as extra pairs of eyes on the pitch, local football authorities hope to reduce bad refereeing calls, such as when a goal is wrongly disallowed for offside.
“Teams have put in a lot of money, investment, and time. So the last thing that they should get is a fair and just result. Which is what we are aiming for,” said Mr Nazeer Hussain, director of the referees' department at FAS.
“With the objective of minimum interference and maximum benefit to the game, we hope that implementing VAR in Singapore will elevate our refereeing standards and ensure that most of the critical decisions in the game are made correctly. This will end up in elevating the stature and prestige of the SPL.”
The penalty area, for instance, is where video assistant referees pay most of their attention, and where match-defining moments happen.
However, they can only intervene if either of two conditions are met: The referee makes a clear and obvious error; or if a missed incident has serious implications, like a potential sending off or a foul that denies a goal scoring opportunity.
The VAR system is operated centrally by a three-man team at the FAS headquarters in Jalan Besar.
“The VAR will have access to all the camera angles in the stadium and he can get these angles to check for any kind of situation, in live speed, in slow motion,” said Singaporean referee Muhammad Taqi Aljaafari, who was an assistant video assistant referee at last year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
“It is very transparent, in a sense that he will have direct communication with the referee on the pitch. There is no intermediary.”
ADDING EXCITEMENT TO MATCHES
VAR training in Singapore started about a year ago, with professional and amateur football clubs helping FAS to test the system.
The VAR system does not come as an extra cost for the clubs, with FIFA picking up the bulk of the tab and FAS fully operating the system.
Meanwhile, players and coaches said they have plenty to gain from the use of the technology. Some believe it may even add some drama to the game.
“There is a lot of suspense, especially when the referee goes to check the screen,” said Lion City Sailors Football Club captain Hariss Harun.
“It adds to the excitement. Whether it is a goal or not a goal? There are a lot of question marks. In a way, it can add some excitement to the matches.”
Lion City Sailors head coach Risto Vidaković added: “It's a good thing, because there are many situations that you cannot control. (The referee) cannot see everything on the pitch. There are many situations like offsides, penalties and goals.”
FIFA will continue to support the league on the VAR system for the next three seasons.
The new SPL season kicks off on Sunday, with champions Albirex Niigata facing Hougang United in the Community Shield.