The veteran official manages the Professional Referee Organisation, which started implementing testimonials in MLS in 2017.
Former Premier League referee and present head of the Professional Referee Organisation (PRO) Howard Webb claims that the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology won’t ever have the ability to eliminate all controversy from the sport, but to aim would be to move as near perfection as possible.
Webb has been in control of PRO because 2017 as he became the Director of Video Assistant Referee Operations, with a part of his responsibilities focusing on the execution of VAR at MLS.
PRO helped introduce VAR into MLS throughout the 2017 season, only a few months after the A-League at Australia became the first league utilize the technology in a top-flight professional club contest.
The machine has since been released in leagues all around the world, with 36 total domestic competitions including VAR while the technology can also be utilised in the World Cup and UEFA Champions League among other global and continental competitions.
The execution of VAR hasn’t been without controversy, however, since the technology’s use in the Premier League and during last summer’s Women’s World Cup attracted criticism for a variety of controversial rulings.
But Webb states the system, though not yet perfected, does much more good than it does damage since it gives officials the best chance of getting the call right when all is said and done.
“There is no doubt, however, that the presence of VAR provides officials’ assurance,” Webb told reporters,”because when they will make the choice, they will know it is going to be assessed by a colleague who is highly educated and an intervention will come if, in the opinion of that highly trained person, it is clear error was made.
“So we do not expect perfection, but we aim for it. We find we are getting better every time and more efficient annually. But I would caution folks to not expect they will agree with each and every outcome every time because we are still dealing with human beings and I believe in some ways people do not do not really mind that.”
Throughout Webb’s time overseeing the use of VAR in MLS, the system has improved each and every year, the former participant believes.
In 2019, referees reviewed 41 of 1,257 total goals scored in MLS play with 27 of these goals eventually being ruled out. Overall 97.85 percent of MLS goals didn’t require VAR intervention, while, after internal reviews, 99.46% percentage of goals were rather scored during the season.
The most hotly-debated calls, normally, are offiside rulings, with former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger proposing a change in the rule in an attempt to reward attackers.
Webb says he’s”open-minded to potential rule changes and technology as it grows, so long as it helps referees properly call a match”.
“[MLS Vice President of Competition Jeff Agoos] and I sit on the FIFA working class around innovation in the video inspection, so we’re keeping a close watch on how the automobile offside tracking, as an instance, develops,” Webb added. “If it is something which is shown to be accurate and could provide messaging to the officers in an efficient manner, a fast way, then we would certainly look to give it a try in our competition.
“They are not quite there yet concerning the automatic body part monitoring on offside. Undoubtedly it’s something which I believe they will get to, and it will help us in providing precise offside determinations. The key for me is how fast that’s communicated to the on-field officials since offside is also is just 1 part of this equation.
“Being in an offside position isn’t in itself an offense; there needs to be something done by the player in the offside position to be penalised. That’s where you will need the human element too. So, something which could tell the officials that a participant is in an offside position is helpful, that is the beginning point, then the outfield officials are able to make a decision as to where that individual has to be penalised.”
In total, MLS featured a total of .36 testimonials per game in 2019, which Webb says roughly aligns with the rest of the world. A vast majority of these reviews evaluated potential penalties, with 67 reviews appearing at fouls from the box, 43 analysing potential red cards and two utilized to properly identify a participant. In total, there were 153 reviews through 421 matches.
Agoos and Webb explained that increased transparency could be a critical focus for them this year. PRO hosts regular conference calls to deal with questions regarding controversial calls in addition to weekly breakdowns. An MLS VAR accounts has also been created on Twitter, offering followers an opportunity for updates on calls and why they were created.
1 possible addition down the line might be an on-field explanation from the referee, like those made by officials at the National Football League.
Webb says the human element of the game will always remain and that rules will always cause controversy, but he considers VAR will continue to enhance the sport as referees and league officials become more comfortable with the technologies involved.
“What we have learned over our VAR travel is that, at the end of the day, a human being is using the machine for a VAR, and he is making a decision based on their professional experience and experience as to whether or not to intervene,” Webb said.
“I recall, going back to 2017, when I introduced a town hall session and people were saying’VAR will stop all controversies and quit talking points!’ , once you would never do that.
“What you can do is to reduce the amount of clear errors that will affect our game or scenarios where we overlook something that’s significant. And there’s little doubt in MLS within the 3 seasons now that we have used it, it has had a net positive on the match.
“We are seeing lots and lots of really great interventions which are helping the sport but there’ll always be subjectivity and lots of our training is based around this, to identify always what is not clear and clear from an outfield stage of view.”