S'pore Premier League to implement video assistant referee in 'near future'
Already a staple in top football leagues in Europe, video assistant referee (VAR) technology will make its debut in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) in the "near future".
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) head of referees department Nazeer Hussain shared this development in a statement on Tuesday (March 15) as part of its "long-term objective to have our match officials make consistent and more importantly, correct decisions".
He added that the planning stages to implement the VAR for the SPL were kickstarted in late 2021.
In a rare move, the statement also addressed a Firdaus Kasman goal for Tampines Rovers that was wrongly ruled out for offside in an SPL match last Sunday against Lion City Sailors, who won 1-0. Nazeer said he had apologised to Tampines chairman Desmond Ong for the mistake.
Following the controversy, netizens had questioned the standard of refereeing and Nazeer added that while the FAS does not excuse any mistakes made, it does not condone personal attacks or doxxing of its referees and urged the football fraternity to treat one another with respect.
Ong was appreciative that FAS and Nazeer were "quick to respond to respond to the public outcry". He added: "Our thoughts go out to the officials currently in the eye of the storm. We never doubted their integrity and we hope they can bounce back and continue to contribute to our game."
While he was in favour of VAR, he also had some concerns. He said: "Referees do a thankless job and moving with the times, technology will help them reduce errors.
"But if the current broadcast camerawork is anything to go by, there is plenty of room for improvement to get it to a level suitable for VAR.
"Then there's the cost of such an exercise. Fifa has been promoting the use of VAR, so if there is some form of grant or financial assistance the FAS can apply for, that would be great."
VAR has been introduced in football since 2016, with trials in the United States' Major League Soccer and full implementation in the following year.
According to Fifa, the minimum requirement for VAR is four cameras, although it approved a more affordable VAR Lite version to have one to three cameras. In England, the cost of using the VAR per match is reported to be £9,251 (S$16,500) excluding tax.
The VAR is not perfect as it still relies on a team of officials in a control room to alert the referee to situations, but it has grown to be accepted as a part of the game to review clear errors relating to goals, red cards, penalties and mistaken identity during the match and offers the opportunity for decisions to be overturned.
As such, it would eliminate controversies such as when the Stags took a throw-in that was awarded to Balestier and went on to make it 2-0 in a 2-2 draw on Feb 26. The Tigers also could have benefited from reviews of separate penalty and red-card incidents against Tanjong Pagar in their 5-3 loss last Saturday.
Balestier captain Ho Wai Loon said: "VAR would be a step forward as it has been proven in most countries where it is used. It should help reduce such dispute and refereeing errors that could make a difference in the final result, end-of-season league positions, or whether a team makes it to the next round of a cup competition.
"But having VAR also means that referees have to be trained for it as they are the ones who have to alert the main referee for any reviews."