Football Australia referee Alireza Faghani showing a yelow card to Adelaide United's Ryan Tunnicliffe. Photo Credit: Joshua Davis

In a historic announcement on Tuesday, Football Australia announced that the A-League Men Finals Series would debut a live Video Assistant Referee (VAR) announcement process.

VAR, which was first introduced in the 2016/17 season, has been controversial amongst fans since its introduction, with this decision designed to enhance transparency in the decision-making process.

“As the first nation to adopt VAR in a top-tier national competition when we introduced it into the A-League in the 2016/17 season, Football Australia has always led globally in this space,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson said.

“We have continued to advocate globally for more innovation and this evolution marks a significant step forward in Football Australia’s commitment to enhancing the clarity and the experience for the fans, players, coaches, and match officials.

“As we saw during last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup where the same process and technology was introduced for the first time, we are confident that this new communication layer will improve the understanding of VAR decisions, positively impact the overall experience, and increase transparency in the process.”

How will it work?

The live VAR process will work in a similar manner to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The process will activate primarily when an on-field reviews occurs, which is where the referee reviews incidents directly from the pitch-side monitor.

Upon completion of a review, the referee will signal using the ‘TV’ signal. Subsequently, the referee’s microphone will be activated, allowing both stadium attendees and broadcast viewers to hear the rationale for the decision before it is officially confirmed on the field.

When a factual review takes significant time before a decision is made, the referee will also make an announcement to explain the rationale. 

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A-Leagues commissioner Nick Garcia said that it is exciting to be able to introduce the technology alongside Football Australia.

“This technology will add more transparency to the referees’ decision-making process to give fans, players and coaches more insight on matchday, and what better stage to have this ready for than our 2024 Final Series.”

Football Australia Head of Referees Nathan Magill said it is an initiative the governing body has been looking to introduce for a few seasons.

“This initiative is something Football Australia has been looking to introduce for a few seasons as we believe it is important for the game’s stakeholders, particularly the fans at the ground or watching from afar, to be across the thought process of the match officials in such situations,” Magill said.

“In preparation, our referees have undergone extensive training throughout the season to ensure they are well-prepared to implement this new system consistently and effectively.

“Their training has included developing clear communication skills and consistently applying communication during match scenarios.” 

The A-League Men competition will become the first league within the Asian Football Confederation to implement this process by doing so.

The game between Sydney FC and Macarthur FC will be the first game to use the new process, followed by the Melbourne Derby elimination final on Sunday.

VAR does not feature in the A-League Women competition, and will not be part of this initiative by the A-Leagues and Football Australia with the technology not having been used in the competition this season.

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