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Ref could not conduct on-field VAR review during S’pore Cup match due to video signal loss

A signal loss for a video feed resulted in the referee being unable to view footage of an incident on a VAR (video assistant referee) pitchside monitor during a Singapore Cup tie on Monday, said the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).

This happened during a group game between Tanjong Pagar United and Hougang United at the Jurong East Stadium. Tanjong Pagar won 2-1.

The incident took place in the 84th minute. With the score at 1-1, Hougang forward Hazzuwan Halim and Tanjong Pagar goalkeeper Kenji Rusydi were involved in a collision inside the penalty box which led to both players requiring treatment.

Referee Clarence Leow initially awarded a corner to Hougang, but was subsequently recommended by VAR to conduct an on-field review of the incident.

After looking at the monitor screen, Leow signalled for a woman, believed to be a technical crew member, to come over. She was then seen aiming what looked like a remote control at the screen several times for about a minute.

Leow was unable to watch the incident footage, the FAS confirmed on Tuesday.

The Cheetahs, who had penalty claims, showed signs of confusion when told about what happened by Leow, who stuck to his initial decision to award a corner kick.

Tanjong Pagar then scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time through an own goal by Kazuma Takayama to clinch a late 2-1 victory.

Hougang coach Marko Kraljevic told The Straits Times on Tuesday: “I don’t know what actually happened, I was not given any explanation, I only heard (Leow) talk to the players. What I overheard was that the VAR wasn’t working.”

An Hougang player, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “It’s very frustrating that technical errors caused a direct impact on the outcome of the match.”

In response to ST’s queries, Abhishek Ravikrishnan, FAS lead of content and production, said: “The monitor screen located within the Referee Review Area (RRA) in Jurong East Stadium had experienced a loss in signal for the video feed from the Video Operator Room in Jalan Besar Stadium.

“This signal loss resulted in the referee being unable to view the specific incident on the RRA monitor, and hence he maintained his original decision to award a corner kick.”

When asked for the standard operating procedure for referees in cases like this, FAS director of referees Nazeer Hussain said: “In the event of a system malfunction, both competing teams will be promptly notified, and the match will continue without VAR intervention, following normal procedures.

“(The signal loss) resulted in the referee being unable to conduct a video review of this incident. Consequently, the referee upheld the initial decision to award a corner kick. Following this decision, the referee informed both teams of the malfunction situation and the decision which he upheld.”

Nazeer, who said the match will not be “invalidated”, added: “I regret that this incident has had an unfavourable impact on Hougang United with regards to the outcome of the match and I will be reaching out to Hougang personally.”

Abhishek said: “To enhance greater system reliability, we are taking steps to introduce an additional signal pathway for referees on an alternative monitor, aiming to prevent future disruptions in match officiation”

VAR was first introduced to Singapore football in 2023 to help on-field referees review incidents of “clear and obvious errors”.

Similar cases of VAR malfunctioning have occurred elsewhere, including the A-League grand final in 2017 during which a software glitch meant the referee could not watch the broadcast feed, resulting in a goal wrongly awarded.