Football: The English Premier League to introduce VAR in the 2019-20 season

By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King, London, United Kingdom

The English Premier League (EPL) has announced that it has, in principle, agreed to use video assistant referees (VAR) from the 2019-20 season.

In April of this year, the EPL clubs voted against introducing VAR for the 2018-19 season, instead opting to extend trials. At that time, the clubs asked for VAR to be used in more FA Cup and Carabao Cup ties, to test the technology.

At a shareholders’ meeting, held on 15 November 2018, the clubs decided to proceed with the introduction of VAR for the 2019-20; and it is understood that the EPL will request the International Football Association Board and FIFA to implement VAR in its matches as from next season.

A statement, published on the EPL website, confirmed that:

“The Premier League’s non-live testing programme will remain in place for the rest of this season, with a continued emphasis on those Saturday afternoons which have several matches being played concurrently, and developing a clear protocol for communicating VAR decisions to fans”.

With any new developments in ‘the beautiful game’, keeping the fans onside is absolutely essential.

VAR was first introduced to top-flight football in the Australian A-League in April 2007. Since then, it has been used in a number of other top-flight competitions, including the Bundesliga in Germany; Serie A in Italy; and La Liga in Spain.

VAR was also used for the first time at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, where it was deemed to be a success.

UEFA has announced that, from the 2019-20 season, VAR will be introduced in the Champions League.

In the light of the position that the EPL holds as one of the most eminent domestic football competitions in the world, it is hardly surprising to see the introduction of VAR by the EPL.

As the EPL main rivals for overseas television rights, the Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga, all use VAR, for the EPL to maintain its commercial competitive edge, the introduction of VAR appears to be a smart move!

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