FFA tells video assistant refs to back off

Reeling from criticism sparked by heavy handed intervention from video assistant referees,, FFA has issued fresh guidelines to match officials, ordering them to back off for the remainder of the A-League season.

In a memo sent to club CEOs on Wednesday, the game's governing body made clear that they have told the VARs to think more clearly about when they get involved, and if possible, get involved much less than they have been so far. There has been significant criticism of the system from A-League clubs, coaches, players and fans as the trial period unfolded.

"In simple terms don't go looking for infringements that are by definition not match-changing," the FFA memo says.

The memo underlines that the "overriding principle of VAR is based on minimum interference for maximum benefit and to overturn clear errors in match changing situations."

FFA has told the match officials that the VAR:

  • Should only intervene when there is a clear/obvious error or a completely missed incident by the on-field referee;
  • Should use a high threshold for intervention on fouls;
  • Should focus on match-changing situations.

It means that on-pitch referees should no longer fear that the game will be "re-refereed" by officials high in the grandstand who, with the benefit of multiple angle coverage and slow motion replays, decide to completely change the original decision.

"Where potential serious foul play tackles have been seen and acted on by the on-field match officials by way of yellow card caution, the incident will not be reviewed by the VAR with the effect of being able to regrade to a send-off," the memo says.

"The on-field referees should back themselves to identify the appropriate sanction (yellow and red card offences) knowing that the VAR will not upgrade a yellow to red on review.

"VARs will act on any serious missed incident that has not been seen by the referee. However the VAR is to use a high threshold for intervention."

FFA also want the VARs to have more of a feel for what is going on in the game at the time of incidents.

"VARs are asked to be aware of game empathy. If the incident has not been noticed or affected the player on which the foul has occurred and no reasonable person would expect the game to be interrupted or action to be taken, then the VAR should allow the game to continue.

"'Limit the use of on-field reviews (OFR) to when it is absolutely necessary. VARs should only be recommending a review and changing an on-field decision when the footage absolutely and clearly shows that the on-field decision is incorrect."

The memos says that clear and obvious errors are the primary reason to overturn decisions which lead to the awarding of or disallowing of goals. These include when the ball crosses the line, when a player is offside or when a defender commits an offence in the penalty area which has not been seen.

This story FFA tells video assistant refs to back off first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.