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Video Assistant Refereeing — an update from Howard Webb

Next month will see Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) in Major League Soccer for the first time, and training and education is increasing ahead of its August introduction.

Along with live matches, offline testing has also been ongoing, while a five-day training camp was recently held in Utah. Howard Webb, PRO’s manager of Video Assistant Referee operations, has been overseeing the process.

“The VAR camp was an intensive opportunity for our officials to come together and really fine-tune their VAR skills and knowledge,” Webb told

“We had five classroom sessions, starting with a VAR knowledge check. We looked at clips from recent MLS matches, showed officials the presentation which MLS clubs have had, looked at consistency in recognizing the start of the Attacking Possession Phase, discussed unusual situations, and looked back on recent use of VAR in FIFA competitions.

“We also had three practical field sessions using a full TV production, four Hawkeye VAR stations and over 120 local players, recreating match situations — some of which were quite complicated.

“The performances of the officials in these practical sessions were de-briefed, with good practice being recognized and shared, and development areas discussed.”

The USL has been one of many platforms for VAR testing this season, with over 20 matches using the technology, while pre-season and the Generation adidas youth tournament have also provided a perfect opportunity for further testing.

Read more: Generation adidas Cup a big step in VAR training

PRO’s officials have all had the chance to get used to the system during 2017, with more than 125 matches online and offline using VAR, and it’s not just the referees who are being further educated.

PRO will be reaching out to clubs and media in the coming weeks to cover off the subject, with Webb recently in London updating international broadcast partners.

“All VAR trainees will have been involved in at least one live VAR match prior to go-live, plus several offline matches.

“We have used offline VAR in MLS matches — where the VAR performs the role as normal but doesn’t actually communicate to the on-field referee, instead communicating to a ‘surrogate’ referee who is pitchside. This has created additional training opportunities for our officials, while also testing the venue for VAR infrastructure.

“Every MLS club is receiving a visit from PRO and MLS staff where a presentation is being made covering all aspects of VAR. We are also speaking to the media to ensure they know what VAR is all about.

“All our broadcast partners — including international ones — are being presented to, and we have an online webinar coming up for other members of the media.

“It’s all hands to the pump, but we’re excited and ready to go.”

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