Premier League implementation of video assistant referees next season looks unlikely as a number of clubs are understood to be reluctant to ratify its use at Friday’s shareholders’ meeting.
VAR has been marred by controversy during the testing phase, with complaints from managers and players compounded by fans’ frustration at the decision-making process.
The length of time it takes to make a decision and the lack of information about it inside stadiums are among the bugbears that have proved problematic during testing in this season’s FA Cup.
VAR will be used at this summer’s World Cup in Russia after being rubber-stamped by the FIFA council last month, yet it appears that the Premier League will not be giving it the green light just yet.
Clubs will vote on whether to use the system in the 2018-19 season at a shareholders’ meeting on Friday, when at least 14 clubs must accept the proposal to get the green light.
But Press Association Sport understands many are reluctant to ratify its use in the top-flight next term and are prepared to wait another season.
Holding fire would allow another year to practice, problem solve and fine tune a system that FIFA president Gianni Infantino concedes may lead to controversy at the World Cup.
Infantino believes it is a necessary measure as world football’s governing body looks to give its match officials every assistance in making correct decisions, albeit it is not foolproof.
“I am sure that soon we will reach a stage in which VARs are part and parcel of the game and its flow,” he wrote in April’s edition of the FIFA magazine.
“Right now, while technology is still a novelty in football, every single incident draws attention and is dissected like an anomaly – unlike the many seconds that we have grown used to wasting, say, in between free-kicks or throw-ins.
“Will there still be mistakes? Absolutely. Unavoidable ones. An important component of football refereeing is subjective, and for that we will always have to count on human judgement, which is fallible by nature – even more so when under enormous pressure.
“However, we have an obligation to provide match officials with all of the tools they need to help them take decisions as accurately as possible.
“And, yes, we will be ready for controversy. Whenever people care about something as much as they do about football, there will always be discussion.
“Football could either expose itself to a brand new controversy – arising from a willingness to improve the game – or settle for an existing, inert one. I am happy we chose the former.”
The Premier League last month said it is “open to considering new technology that assists match officials without disrupting the flow of the game”.
Those trials have informed the league’s discussions with its clubs, with some understood to believe VAR is being employed too widely and more subjective decisions, such as fouls, should be left to the match-day officials.
Issues of how best to make decisions are still being ironed out and questions remain about what constitutes a mistake. For example, England manager Gareth Southgate was recently frustrated by the VAR as the penalty that allowed Italy to grab a late 1-1 draw was not a “clear and obvious” error.
Getting enough referees fully up-to-speed with the system in time for roll-out next term would also look a big ask.
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