MLS announced earlier this week that they are testing Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in 2017 preseason matches and now have made another big announcement via PRO(Pro Referee Organization) that famous former referee Howard Webb has been hired to manage the VAR program in MLS.
During approximately 30 preseason matches, MLS will continue live, in-game VAR testing with the goal of implementing live, in-game testing during MLS regular season matches in the second half of the 2017 season.
Webb retired from an illustrious 25-year career after officiating more than 500 English Premier League and Football League games, overseeing UEFA Champions League games and serving as a FIFA international referee for UEFA European Football Championship matches and during two FIFA World Cups. Webb remains the only referee to officiate both a UEFA Champions League final and FIFA World Cup Final in the same year (2010)..
Following his retirement, Webb served as the Technical Director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) which develops referee standards and fields match officials for all English Premier League, Football League (EFL), and Football Association (FA) competitions. Currently, he is the Director of Referees for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation as well as a member of the BT Sport broadcast team for UEFA Champions League broadcasts, utilizing video replay systems to analyze tactical situations and referee decisions in real-time on the air.
“I’m delighted to join the Professional Referee Organization for this new challenge and contribute to the implementation of what I view as a crucial development for the sport,” said Webb. “I have tremendous respect for the organization that Peter Walton has created and am excited to be on board for the continued development of this initiative.”
“These additional tests during preseason, as well as the offline tests during the beginning of the MLS regular season, will enable us to refine the experiment protocols and procedures prior to implementation in league matches,” MLS executive vice president of competition and player Relations Todd Durbin said in a statement released by the league.
“During this preseason phase of testing, PRO will be keen on identifying consistent decision-making and fine-tuning referee-to-VAR communications,” added PRO GM Peter Walton. “These valuable trainings will provide real-time review opportunities and will serve as a stepping stone for in-game testing during the MLS regular season.”
The IFAB hopes to make a decision about the VAR experiment in 2018, or in 2019 at the latest.