FIFA Club World Cup referee makes history by explaining VAR decision to the crowd.

Before the beginning of the FIFA Club World Cup, the football governing body announced that they would be trialling a system which would allow referees in the tournament to use microphones to communicate VAR decisions to fans in the stadium, as well as television audiences watching at home, this aiming to make VAR interventions more understandable for spectators, both in the stadium and via broadcasters.

In this tournament, referees use a stadium-wide intercom to explain VAR decisions over a microphone to fans both at the ground and watching the TV broadcast. Fans can’t hear the conversation between on-field official and VAR officials, but they have an explanation of the decisions if the official opts to do so.

At its Annual Business Meeting held at Wembley Stadium in London on 18 January 2023, The IFAB followed up on the recommendations made by its Football and Technical Advisory Panels in October 2022. It agreed that referees’ live communication of video assistant referee (VAR) related decisions to the public – both in the stadium and via broadcasters – would be trialled for 12 months in international competition and that it would initially be rolled out at the FIFA Club World Cup.

🔜 The trial will continue to the final in Rabat on 11 February, with ongoing discussions regarding a further test at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia later this year. Dependent on the outcome of these trials, utilisation at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 in July and August has not been ruled out. 

In the past, FIFA has tested technology such as vanishing spray (2013), VAR (2016), and semi-automated offside (2021) at the Club World Cup, as it’s the perfect combination of high-profile visibility with just enough matches to make it a meaningful experiment.

🎙 Pierluigi Collina, FIFA Referees Committee Chairman, stated: “We decided to have this trial because we received some requests to make the decision taken by the referee after a VAR intervention more understandable for all the football stakeholders, namely the spectators at the stadium, or in front of the television.”

The trial is something that global football fans will certainly consider an innovation. However, in some other sports, using such technology to inform fans of decisions by match officials is more common. These explanations have become integral to video replay, providing clarity, context, and rule explanations on replay decisions instead of leaving fans and broadcasters to speculate on what happened.

✅ The first instance of a referee sharing his decision on the mic for the stadium crowd’s benefit happened in the first match of the 2023 FIFA World Cup between Al Ahly and Auckland City on February 1. Let’s see if the tests go as planned and see this as part of football from now on.


Receive SiS weekly newsletter with sport business and innovation news.