VAR to make debut in AFC Champions League

Fadhil Yunus

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will be introducing the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system from the quarter-final stage of the AFC Champions League 2020.

The historic move- a milestone in the development of referees in the game- will see the system being used for the first time in the continental confederation’s club competitions.

The VAR system was first introduced in Asian football during the quarter-final stage of the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.

The system was then successfully implemented across 32 games of the AFC Under-23 Championship in Thailand in January 2020.

The AFC has already organised numerous VAR courses and seminars since March 2017 and the implementation of the system has been endorsed by both FIFA and the IFAB.

To further strengthen the AFC’s capabilities in the VAR system application, a virtual AFC VAR Information Officer (VIO) Workshop 2020 will be organised today to ensure VIOs are kept abreast on the latest VAR developments.

According to the AFC, the VAR is limited to four-game changing decisions or incidents, specifically- goal or no goal, penalty kicks, direct red cards and mistaken identity decisions.

With the AFC Champions League currently suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, elite Asian clubs are set to make a return in two stages in September and October.

The continent’s premier club competition will resume in the West Asia region on September 14 and the East Asia region on October 16.

It was also announced that Qatar will be designated as the host member association for matches in the West Region while Malaysia has been named as the centralised hub in the East Region particularly in Group G and H. The venues for Group E and Group F have yet to be confirmed.

Teams from China, Australia, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia will play in the East Asia regional hub while teams from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Uzbekistan will play in the West Asia hub.

Defending champions Al Hilal are aiming to preserve their unbeaten start against group leaders Pakhtakor in Group ‘B’ at the Al Janoub Stadium.

Fixtures in the knock-out phase will be played in a single knockout match format compared to the two-legged format.

The AFC has also announced that the title showpiece has also been slated on December 5.