J.League, IFAB emphasise media’s role in VAR introduction as tests begin

The J.League held the first in a series of planned media briefings on Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) as the league moves toward implementation as early as the 2019 season.

The presentation at JFA House in downtown Tokyo was made by David Elleray, Technical Director for the International Football Association Board which oversees the laws of the game.

“A lot of information both good and bad is coming from European competitions that have implemented VAR,” noted Yoshimi Ogawa, chairman of the Japan Football Association’s Referees Committee. “As one of Asia’s top leagues, we can’t make the decision (to implement VAR) on information alone, without trying it ourselves.”

Elleray’s hour-long presentation, which was followed by a short question-and-answer session, focused largely on the intended use of VAR as well as practical examples of decisions from a number of competitions including the J.League.

“The J.League shouldn’t try to introduce it too quickly,” Elleray said when asked how VAR’s arrival in Japan could avoid the mixed reception it has received in Australia, South Korea, and China. “(Everyone needs to) understand that there will be problems in the early stages. The league needs to work with the media so everyone understands what VAR is and isn’t for. They also need to improve communication in stadiums so fans know what’s happening.”

A report published earlier this month by the Asahi Shimbun suggests that at least 60 staff and over $1 million in equipment will be required to implement the system across the J.League, which currently boasts 57 teams across three divisions. League vice chairman Hiromi Hara, who attended the briefing, emphasised the scale of a potential centralised VAR facility.

“If we establish a central video review centre we need to consider contingencies in the event of a technical malfunction,” Hara said. “To implement the whole system across the three divisions would require significant investment and staff.

We also have to develop video assistant referees who are able to look at all these camera angles at once. They require different skills (than regular referees).”

Hara further identified the need to educate players and coaching staff on the new system.

“J.League players don’t know as much about the VAR system as you (the media) have seen today. We will need to explain the system to managers, coaches, and players. It’s going to take time.”