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VAR to be used for FA Cup third-round replays

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The video assistant referee (VAR) will be used in the FA Cup third round replays between Chelsea and Norwich, and Leicester City and Fleetwood Town.

VAR was used for the first time in a competitive English club game as Brighton beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in the FA Cup third round on Monday.

Despite suggestions Glenn Murray’s winning goal brushed off his arm, the test was deemed to be a success.

“It was a genuine goal,” said Roy Hodgson, manager of the beaten side.

“There’s still a slight thought it might just have brushed off his arm into the goal, but if it’d been my player scoring that goal, I’d have been very upset if it had been disallowed for handball.”

Chelsea’s replay with Norwich is live on BBC One from Stamford Bridge at 19:45 GMT on Wednesday, 17 January.

The two teams shared a goalless draw on Saturday at Carrow Road, but VAR will be used for the replay as only Premier League teams have the required links to a studio in west London for the technology to work.

The same applies to Leicester’s tie with Fleetwood, which is being played the previous evening at the King Power Stadium.

The FA plans to use VAR in each round of the FA Cup, while it is also being trialled in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg between Chelsea and Arsenal, plus the return leg two weeks’ later.

Andre Marriner explains his reasoning to the Palace players after Glenn Murray's winner<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

How did VAR perform on its English club debut?

The biggest confusion about Glenn Murray’s winning goal in Brighton’s FA Cup win over Palace was more to do with whether the VAR was used, rather than whether the decision was right.

The short answer was that the system was, to a point.

Referee Andre Marriner was engaged in conversation with his VAR Neil Swarbrick most of the evening and it is understood they consulted on about 11 decisions throughout the game.

But because there was no clear and obvious error made by Marriner the review system, where the referee makes the TV signal, did not come into force.

Marriner had the assistance of Swarbrick watching the game on television in the Premier League’s west London studio, with between 12 and 15 camera angles – plus four cameras in each goal – helping him along the way.

As the Murray goal showed, just because you can replay an incident on a screen, it does not make the decision beyond debate.

As International Football Association Board technical director David Elleray says, the system is designed to “deal with the big mistakes, those big unseen incidents, which bring big unfairness”.

Marriner believed that Murray scored with his knee, the VAR agreed and the decision stood.

How will VAR work in future?

Opponents of VAR suggest it will upset the flow of the game, but its first test in English football showed it can still be used without disrupting the match.

Where a review is used, it will normally be triggered during stoppages in play and limited to four types of match-changing incidents:

  • Goals
  • Penalties
  • Straight red cards
  • Mistaken identity

So, for example, if Murray had clearly scored with his hand and Marriner had not spotted it, the VAR would contact him via an audio link and tell him to reverse that decision as soon as possible.

“What the referee doesn’t have the option of doing is saying is ‘I don’t know if that was a penalty or not, I’ll look at the replay’,” added Elleray.

“We are requiring the referees to carry on refereeing as if there is no video assistant referee. If they make a clear and obvious error, they get told about it and I think most referees will welcome that.”

VAR can only be used at Premier League stadiums where there is a direct link back to the Premier League studios west of London.

That is why Leicester and Fleetwood will be able to use VAR in their replay, but Yeovil Town will not have the same privilege in their fourth-round tie at home to Manchester United.

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