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VAR A Game Changer For OFC

Plans to introduce Video Assistant Referees (VAR) into OFC competitions have taken a significant step forward this week in Auckland.

Under the guidance of Lewis Watterson from Hawk-Eye, five local operators have been getting VAR training at the OFC Home of Football ‘Te Kahu o Kiwa.’

“I’m here for the week taking the guys through how to set up in an offline training mode so they can do it themselves to practice. The training process can take as long as it needs to.” Watterson said.

Hawk-Eye’s technology has been used in Football and other sports globally such as Cricket, Tennis, Aussie Rules, Rugby League, and American sports for years.

“I think it's key to just have that video evidence to sort of prove whether the decisions are right or wrong. And then train the guys actually to make the decisions and make use of the technology to the best of their ability.” Watterson said.

It’s hoped VAR will be up and running for ‘practice’ at OFC tournaments later this year with the aim to have VAR introduced at competitions, some time in 2025 in preparation for the proposed OFC Pro League.

OFC Head of Refereeing Kevin Stoltenkamp says having VAR will benefit, referees, players, and fans.

“I think it’s important for the confidence of the players knowing that they're going to get support if a decision they feel went against them. It’s not only for the players, but also for the spectators, it brings some excitement to the game. However, I'm really in favour of the match officials explaining the decision so the public can understand. But the most important thing, I think it's confidence for match officials, confidence for the players, and confidence for the spectators, that the decision that's been made by the referee is the correct one.’ Stoltenkamp said.

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It can take up to 18 months to get certification for use of VAR at competitions.

“This is the first step of a long process. We are also going to do it at our elite seminar with our own officials (later in year)where we get these operators coming in and actually setting up under the guidance of Hawkeye in preparation for not only the match officials, but for them. The referees need lots and lots of opportunities and lots of games.” Stoltenkamp added.

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