FIFA confirms VAR will be used at 2019 Women’s World Cup

By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King, London, UK

After months of speculation, FIFA has finally announced that VAR will be implemented at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France this summer.

Despite top FIFA officials lavishing praise on the use of VAR at the 2018 Men’s World Cup in Russia, including, FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, stating that “VAR is not changing football, it is cleaning football” and that it would be “difficult to think about the World Cup without VAR, it has been certainly a more just competition”, it has taken until just over three months before the start of the women’s tournament for FIFA to officially confirm its use.

A number of people involved in women’s football have called for VAR to be used, including Jill Ellis, the coach of the current World Champions, USA and Phil Neville, the coach of England, who stated that it is “important” that VAR is introduced to women’s football.

FIFA has been training the officials selected for the Women’s World Cup on the use of VAR. The officials all took part in a VAR training camp in Qatar in February. To date, no senior women’s domestic or international competitions use VAR.

The use of VAR in football is limited to four specific situations.

The situations are:

  • (1) whether the ball has crossed the line for a goal;
  • (2) whether a penalty should be awarded;
  • (3) whether a direct red card should be shown; and
  • (4) in cases of mistaken identity.

VAR has been used in a number of men’s competitions around the world, including the Bundesliga in Germany; Serie A in Italy; and The FA Cup in England.

It was introduced at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and the tournament passed largely without incident.

However, in the World Cup final, the referee for the final, Nestor Pitana from Argentina, awarded a contentious penalty in favour of France, following a VAR review. After Pitana undertook a pitch side review, he determined that Croatia midfielder, Ivan Perisic, handled the ball in the penalty box. Analysts and commentators generally derided the decision to award the penalty, as Perisic appeared to have little opportunity to move his hand out of the way of the ball and it was not a ‘clear and obvious’ error for Pitana to miss the handball originally.

After the tournament, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, was pleased with the performance of the referees and declared:

We said we wanted this to be the best World Cup ever and it’s been the best World Cup ever. A crucial role in this achievement was played by the referees who excelled with performances of the highest standard.”

The use of VAR at the forthcoming Women’s World Cup is an important step in creating gender equality in the men’s and women’s game. It is to be hoped, therefore, that its introduction will also lead to further steps to create more equality between the two games!

Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@stoneking.co.uk’