The National Women’s Soccer League will be implementing video review in the 2023 season.
The decision follows the completion of the fifth full season in Major League Soccer that used video match officials, during which operations have shifted from inside stadiums to a centralized location in Atlanta.
The NWSL rollout will create further opportunities for more officials to be certified as VARs and AVARs, with a new cohort currently being trained to meet the demand for more video review-supported matches across both the men’s and women’s game in North America.
The new trainees have already received a virtual introduction to the processes of VAR and have spent time putting their learnings into practice with simulations of pre-recorded games, familiarizing themselves with the technology and how to work as a team in a new environment.
PRO has planned in-person training camps throughout the offseason that will see referees and video match officials work small-sided games where reviewable situations will be created in real-time, before video review is rolled out in preseason games and eventually makes its debut in NWSL.
Video review has already been used at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019, which saw PRO officials Drew Fischer, Felisha Mariscal, and Kathryn Nesbitt operate in the booth, and the recent FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in India, where Mariscal was joined by PRO colleagues Katja Koroleva and Carol Anne Chenard, the latter of whom worked as VAR in the final. NWSL will now become the first women’s league in the world to implement video review in every game.
Howard Webb, PRO’s General Manager, said: “We have devised a comprehensive program of training, utilizing the expertise we have within our organization, to ensure everyone is certified in time for the start of the NWSL season.
“Officials are being exposed to game scenarios with VAR in place because this will be a new additional element for some of them to think about. They know the game, and it’s important that the basics of refereeing on the field continue to be delivered in an effective way. But the officials now have to think about video review processes too. Much of our focus is on process and identifying a consistent line for intervention. We have always maintained the view that video review should not be used as a tool to re-referee the game. Good officiating starts on the field of play, and that applies to all leagues we serve. Video review remains a safety net to rectify errors which are clear.
“We have top quality people in their field making this happen, led by Greg Barkey, who has been in India for the U-17 Women’s World Cup as a VAR instructor, and Mark Geiger, who is one of the foremost instructors for FIFA.
“Video review is a program that we are constantly finetuning to make sure clear errors are rectified as consistently as possible in a game that throws up lots of subjective situations.
“It is a system that will benefit NWSL. It won’t stop all discussions because that’s the nature of our sport. Video review is here to reduce the number of key errors, and it will do that. That is why NWSL is making a significant investment in bringing video operations into this country’s top division of women’s soccer, and PRO is looking forward to supporting its implementation.”