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LONDON (AP) — Video technology is set to arrive in soccer this year with trials to assist referees who find it harder to keep up with the faster, modern game when the financial stakes are so high.
The International Football Association Board on Thursday "overwhelmingly supported" progressing with experiments and the body's full annual meeting is expected to approve them in March.
"It's a fundamental decision, something we've been debating for many, many years — ultimately, it could lead to referees being assisted by video," Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford, who chaired the meeting, told The Associated Press.
"The reality is that refereeing is a very difficult job. It's one person, two eyes and, in many games now, we have 10, sometimes 20 cameras, millions of people watching games, so we've got to do what we can to assist referees."
To gain sufficient information on different systems, trials will take place across entire competitions in the coming seasons.
The use of video would be restricted to referees ruling on whether a goal has been scored, a penalty should be awarded, a player should be sent off or cases of mistaken identity. It comes three years after IFAB approved systems that send a signal to the referee determining if the ball crossed the line.
Reacting to calls for more technology, IFAB envisages various video systems being tested in games, including a person watching on monitors in a truck outside the stadium feeding information into the referee's ear, or the referee being able to go to the sideline to view replays or see the clips on a wearable device.
"There's a lot more to the game than sitting and watching a screen," Ford said. "So in an ideal world the referee will be able to make that decision with his own eyes watching that footage."
FIFA controls half of the eight votes on IFAB, which also features four United Kingdom football associations. A motion requires at least six votes to be approved.
English Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn said it is proving "physically harder for referees to keep up" in games and high-tech assistance is proving essential.
"The game has never been faster, referees have never been fitter but players are getting quicker," Glenn told the AP.
"So those difficult snap-shot decisions at high speed are ones where we think, and certainly the English FA would think, technology might help and we've just got to test that."
The Dutch federation has been testing technology where officials watching on television could feed live information to referees. As an IFAB member, England is keen to host trials, having tested goal-line technology during a friendly in 2012 at Wembley Stadium.
"We will look back in 15-20 years' time and wonder how we never had it," Glenn said. "We are probably at a point where human endurance can't go much further so, at that point, if you can balance the flow of the game with smart use of technology, why wouldn't you?
"Technology can certainly help but we don't want to ruin the flow and the simplicity of the game which is something to be really valued."
IFAB is currently simplifying the rules of the game, removing repetition while clarifying existing laws — halving the current 22,000-word document.
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