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'Another layer of adrenaline': Infantino says VAR delays are improving football

Paul MacInnes
·2-min read

The president of Fifa, Gianni Infantino, has said fans being made to wait for VAR decisions “adds another layer of adrenaline” as he defended the technology on a day when law adjustments were announced.

Changes to the handball law, the introduction of “semi-automated” offside decisions and a possible redrawing of offside were agreed at the annual congress of Ifab, football’s law-making body, with each change designed with the VAR in mind.

Related: I won't miss ludicrous and intrusive VAR, football's equivalent of Brexit | Paul Wilson

Premier League fans have got used to celebrations being stopped by lengthy VAR delays but Infantino said this had added to the spectacle. “Rather than taking things away it adds, I would say, another layer of adrenaline in the game,” he said. “Now if there is a doubt you check, you wait, you see and that’s the adrenaline that makes football how it is: the waiting for a result.

“I think that VAR is giving and bringing more justice to the game. It’s making the game more clean, it’s helping the referees in taking correct decisions. If maybe it takes away the joy of some, it gives the joy to others when a decision is changed. So the joy if you win a game is still there. You will not hear me say anything negative about VAR. Justice is everything.”

Interpretation of the handball law will be changed so that a goal cannot be disallowed if a player handles accidentally in the buildup. The announcement comes too late for Fulham, who saw a Josh Maja equaliser against Tottenham ruled out by VAR for that reason. The law comes into effect worldwide from 1 July but could be used at Euro 2020.

Ifab also confirmed that trials of semi-automated offside decisions would soon be implemented, whereby linesmen are updated – likely via their headset – with a live automated check on the positions of players in an attacking move.

A proposal by Arsène Wenger to adjust the offside law to benefit the attacker, whereby any part of the body that could play the ball being in line with a defender would means a player was onside, is soon to be trialled, likely in China. The possibility of broadcasting conversations between a referee and video assistant during decisions is to be investigated.

The chief executive of the Football Association, Mark Bullingham, who sits on the Ifab board, said he welcomed the handball change and the prospect of semi-automated offsides, admitting the “fan experience is damaged by waiting”.

Bullingham also confirmed that England had not been approached to host more matches in this summer’s European Championship. “We are not assuming we will host more matches and we are 100% not lobbying for them”, he said.