Referees ● Oct 18, 2022
Singapore on track to implement VAR in local league for 2023
A VAR training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
SINGAPORE, 18 OCTOBER 2022 – Match officials in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) can look forward to utilising the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology next season.
When successfully implemented, Singapore will become the third country in the ASEAN Football Federation and 11th in Asia to use VAR in its local professional league.
Project Lead and Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Director (Referees), Nazeer Hussain, told FAS.org.sg: “The entire VAR implementation process can take between 12 to 18 months according to the Implementation Assistance and Approval Programme (IAAP) developed by FIFA. Thanks to the dedication, commitment and drive of both the referees and the qualified instructors, not forgetting the staff from the Referees Department, we have been able to work effectively within a shortened timeline.
“We are currently at the third of five stages of the IAAP, which focuses on the preparation and training of match officials and VAR technology. The training sessions are going well and we are in the process of scheduling visits for FIFA officials to come down and assess our progress, and approve the use of VAR here in Singapore.
“There’s still work to be done, but if all goes well, we are confident of implementing VAR in the SPL next year.”
FAS Director (Referees), Nazeer Hussain. Image credits: FIFA
The determination of Nazeer and his team to implement VAR in Singapore stems from their desire to elevate the standards of the local football fraternity and enhance the level of officiating by match officials here.
He said: “The FAS is constantly striving to improve the quality of football here and one key element of this is the performance of our match officials. We want them to be kept abreast with the latest developments in officiating, both in terms of their knowledge of the game and by equipping them with technological aids.
“With VAR already widely used and accepted due to its contributions to the modern game, the late FAS President Mr Lim Kia Tong mooted the idea of introducing VAR here as he believed it could be beneficial to local football. It was an exciting suggestion and we have been working hard on the project since the end of 2021.”
COVID-19 restrictions meant that key FIFA experts could only fly to Singapore in February 2022 to provide resources and expertise to the team. A two-day workshop conducted by FIFA VAR Project Manager (Refereeing) Michael Bailey, Project Leader of VAR Implementation Dirk Schlemmer and Football Technology Manager Bhaveshan Moorghen helped to lay the foundations to kickstart the project, and the team has not looked back since.
Project Leader of VAR Implementation Dirk Schlemmer during the two-day workshop on Saturday, 19 February 2022.
FIFA also supported the team through the FIFA Forward Programme, which partially subsidised the cost of the project.
In addition, Nazeer could also count on Muhammad Taqi Aljaafari Bin Jahari – a Video Match Official (VMO) at the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup and FIFA technical instructor John Chia – to equip and train the prospective officials to meet the technical requirements as stipulated by FIFA.
Taqi, who most recently was the Assistant VAR for the Olympics men’s football finals, shared: “From my experiences as a referee and VMO, I am uniquely privileged in the sense that I can contextualise the information taught, by sharing my knowledge and experiences with the trainees on how to apply them to match scenarios. The lessons become more realistic and less dry, which help to enhance the learning experience of the trainees.
“They have been great students and have displayed great commitment to show up at Jalan Besar Stadium every weekend for trainings and assessments. This has undoubtedly helped to smoothen the implementation process.”
Taqi (first from left) at the Tokyo Olympics last year. Image credits: FIFA
Both Taqi and Nazeer also acknowledged the significant contributions of other departments within FAS, as well as SPL clubs, towards the project.
Nazeer said: “The FAS Production and Marketing teams have worked tirelessly to aid the implementation, while the SPL clubs and some amateur clubs have also helped by sending players down to simulate match scenarios for our referees to practice. It has been a team effort from everyone and we are grateful for everyone’s invaluable assistance.”
A VAR training session involving Geylang International U-17 team.
Even though the finishing line is in sight, Nazeer wants his team to remain focused.
“We must not get complacent and will continue to leave no stone unturned for the remainder of the implementation process,” he said. “We want to ensure everything is in place and our officials are properly trained before we implement VAR in Singapore, in order to deliver the best possible experience for both the league and its fans.”