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Why CONCACAF, CAF not using VAR in World Cup qualifiers

Only two FIFA confederations will not be using VAR in this World Cup Qualifying round . Neither Concacaf nor CAF will be deploying the video review system (and OFC has not been able to hold any World Cup Qualifying yet).

It is ironic that for all the times the football world has wished VAR to not be used, they are now clamoring that is an injustice to not have VAR.

Love it or hate it, VAR is here to stay permanently in the game. So understandably it is confusing for players, coaches, and viewers to find themselves suddenly thrust back into a world without and VAR implementation. That’s especially since the rest of the world is using VAR and Concacaf itself does have trained officials who just used it at this summer’s Gold Cup.

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The first key piece is understanding that since this is World Cup qualifying, these matches count as a FIFA match, FIFA Regulations govern the games. This is different than the Gold Cup or Nations League tournaments recently conducted which were Concacaf events. Concacaf, as a Confederation of FIFA, put out a statement right before the matches saying that since FIFA Regulations govern the games and that five out of the eight participating federations do not meet FIFA’s VAR requirement then the World Cup qualifiers could not use VAR.

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This makes sense since no one wants to implement a VAR system in a stadium for a live game when it has never been tested. But looking closer to FIFA’s requirements under the VAR Implementation Assistance and Approval Program (“IAAP”) it is clear that the competition organizer is responsible for fulfilling the requirements to get a stadium certified and approved by FIFA in time for the competition/match by conducting the appropriate technology tests.

USA, Mexico, and Canada are the only participating federations that have stadiums meeting FIFA’s VAR requirements. To implement it in this competition, CONCACAF with the support of the remaining five federations (Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and El Salvador) would have had to timely perform technology tests in these federation’s stadiums in non-live competitions with a final assessment and approval at least 14 days before any VAR use in a live competition. Below shows how stadiums would be approved.

A clear lesson can be drawn from an organizational standpoint but what shines the brightest is that the modern game has fully and finally accepted VAR as part of the beautiful game and sees it as a critical tool for referees to be equipped with to prevent the ‘clear and obvious errors’. No referee wants to be responsible for a game critical error that costs a country its World Cup; and, CONCACAF referees are not an exception.

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