The organizing committee of FIFA announced Monday that it would recommend the use of video assistant referee technology at the Women’s World Cup this summer, bringing refereeing advances introduced at the men’s World Cup in Russia last year to soccer’s most important women’s championship for the first time. The decision, which is expected to be approved by the governing FIFA Council when it meets later this month in Miami, is a victory for women’s soccer players, coaches and fans who have highlighted gender equality issues in the international game.
The technology, known by the acronym V.A.R., allows the on-field referee to consult with a colleague viewing video replays to help confirm, or overturn, close calls in a narrow set of instances. It was fully implemented for the first time at a major FIFA tournament last summer at the men’s World Cup, where FIFA hailed its introduction as a rousing success.
But as the 2019 Women’s World Cup came into view, FIFA repeatedly declined to confirm whether V.A.R. would be at that competition as well, turning the issue into another flash point — alongside artificial turf fields and unequal compensation and bonuses — in the broader gender equity debate in soccer.
On the V.A.R. point, at least, the debate seems finally to be settled.
Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, said last weekend that he supported the use of the technology at the women’s event in June, stating that it was proving effective at discouraging the type of diving and playacting that often plague major soccer tournaments.
“Players now know that it’s not just sufficient to have a look where is the referee, so if he doesn’t see me I can simulate, because he or she will be caught,” Infantino said, according to The Associated Press. “That’s why V.A.R. automatically helps the fight against simulation and diving in a very efficient way.”
Referees for the Women’s World Cup began training with the video technology this winter at a series of seminars in Abu Dhabi and Doha. FIFA later said some had been introduced to the technology as early as 2016.