Plans to introduce Video Assistant Referees (VAR) into OFC competitions have taken a significant step closer with training sessions held in Auckland.
Under the guidance of Lewis Watterson from Hawk-Eye, five local operators have received VAR training at the OFC Home of Football ‘Te Kahu o Kiwa.’
Main photo: Operators learn how to use the VAR technology. Photo credit: OFC Media.
Hawk-Eye’s technology has been used in football and other sports globally such as cricket, tennis, Aussie rules, rugby league, and American sports for years.
“I think it’s key to just have that video evidence to sort of prove whether the decisions are right or wrong. And then train the guys actually to make the decisions and make use of the technology to the best of their ability,” Watterson said.
OFC say they hope VAR will be ready for ‘practice’ use at OFC tournaments in 2024 with the aim to have VAR introduced at competitions in 2025 in preparation for the proposed OFC Pro League.
OFC Head of Refereeing Kevin Stoltenkamp says having VAR will benefit referees, players, and fans.
“I think it’s important for the confidence of the players knowing that they’re going to get support if a decision they feel went against them,” he says.
“It’s not only for the players, but also for the spectators. It brings some excitement to the game.
“However, I’m really in favour of the match officials explaining the decision so the public can understand. But the most important thing, I think it’s confidence for match officials, confidence for the players, and confidence for the spectators, that the decision that’s been made by the referee is the correct one.”
It can take up to 18 months to get certification for use of VAR at competitions.
“This is the first step of a long process. We are also going to do it at our elite seminar with our own officials (later in the year) where we get these operators coming in and actually setting up under the guidance of Hawkeye in preparation for not only the match officials, but for them. The referees need lots and lots of opportunities and lots of games,” Stoltenkamp said.