With the end of the winter break, the action has restarted but behind the scenes so too have tests for the planned introduction of video assistant referees in the Bundesliga next season.  

From the start of the 2017/18 campaign video assistants are to be used in all Bundesliga games, in the promotion/relegation play-off and in the Supercup. This was confirmed on Monday at a press conference held by the DFL [Deutsche Fußball Liga /German Football League] and the DFB [Deutsche Fußball-Bund/German Football Association], who are jointly promoting the project.

Since the start of the current season the Cologne Broadcasting Centre [CBC] has already been testing and preparing what will be used in all Bundesliga games from August 2017 – live pilot situations where the possible intervention of the video assistant can directly impact on the decisions of the referee on the field of play.

Until then tests will continue offline to gain experience of a highly complex issue because the DFL and DFB’s clear motto is: accuracy comes before speed. Man and machine, video assistant and technology, must function perfectly.

The tests in Köln are being carried out with high intensity and great effort. All 23 current top-flight referees have now participated at least twice on Bundesliga matchdays at the CBC “training camp.”

In the Review Centre Hawk-Eye and Evertz, the two selected technical service providers that are already known from goalline technology, have set up four boxes beside each other. As a result, four referees can follow a Bundesliga game at the same time to gain valuable insight and to simulate a radio link for when an intervention is correct and when it is not.

The DFL and DFB plans provide for the involvement of current referees as video assistants. Top referees who had to retire after reaching the age limit of 47 could also potentially be involved.

The current candidates work side by side in the CBC with an operator from the service provider, who has the tremendously important task of picking the ideal pictures of a contested situation from the TV cameras in the stadium. This is done in the shortest possible time – a matter of seconds.

Ultimately the character of football matches will not suffer but instead it will further develop, as FIFA Technical Director Marco Van Basten describes. “Football will remain the same,” the former Netherlands striker said. “But we’re working so that through the video assistants it will become more honest. All that we want is that the result at the end of a game is achieved in a regular manner.”

Video assistants are admittedly not a cure-all. This technical advance will only be used for clear matters and only in four situations:

1.      Irregularities in the case of a goal decision (a foul, handball and offside)

2.      In penalty box situations where the referee unjustifiably awarded a penalty or not

3.      For offences that should lead or should have led to a red card

4.      In cases of mistaken identity over a yellow or red card.

“For our referees the role of the video assistant requires an adjustment because they also have to get a feel for the repetition of phases of play,” said Hellmut Krug, the manager of the DFL’s referees. “By contrast, as referees on the field they decide on their own on the basis of their perception of the situation in real time.”

Soon there will be another stage in the training. More tests are planned in spring, including the involvement of junior teams from Bundesliga clubs when the video assistant will be connected directly with the match referee. In addition, a trial run must take place at each of the 18 Bundesliga stadiums before the start of the season.

“Overall the video assistant project is a huge challenge, logistically and in many ways,” said Ansgar Schwenken, a member of the DFL and DFB presidency. “But German professional football also wants to be open to technical progress and innovations that can help improve the sport.”