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VAR in Champions League only from 2019-20 season, say UEFA

VAR is being used in the Bundesliga for the second consecutive season © AFP / SASCHA SCHUERMANN

MONACO, France, Aug 31 – UEFA are set to wait until next season before introducing Video Assistant Referees (VAR) in the Champions League, although they are still not ruling out having it in this season’s final, president Aleksander Ceferin said on Friday.

Ceferin has so far resisted calls to bring VAR into Europe’s elite club competition, despite the system largely proving successful at the World Cup.

It has also been introduced in Spain and France this season, with those leagues following on from the Bundesliga and Serie A, although the English Premier League has been more cautious.

“For me, VAR is not completely clear for now, but we also know that there is no way back anymore, technology will come sooner or later,” Ceferin told journalists in Monaco, where the Champions League group-stage draw was held on Thursday.

“The plan for now is to use it from the next season, with the first match which is the Super Cup.”

That match is due to be played in Istanbul on August 14, 2019, and the Champions League would then bring in VAR from the playoff round the same month.

“When we are ready we will use it, but it is not so easy because we have to choose the provider, it is not easy to organise a competition across the continent with all the referees, so we have some issues,” said Ceferin.

There had been reports that VAR could come in from the latter stages of this season’s competition, but UEFA’s Slovenian president now says it is unlikely to be used even in the final in Madrid next June.

“I’m not ruling it out but for now it doesn’t look like it will happen,” he admitted.

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Ceferin acknowledged that VAR “worked quite well” at the World Cup, but UEFA’s biggest concern is how they can effectively run the system in a competition spanning an entire continent.

– ‘Very complex’ –

At the World Cup, FIFA used a centralised system based in Moscow, yet doing the same thing with matches being played in different countries is far more complex.

“It’s really much more problematic than it looks. We really have a huge territory, we have different countries. We don’t know yet how to do it,” added Ceferin.

“The plan is to do it next season, but let’s see what happens, I don’t want to predict anything 100 percent.”

Nevertheless, it seems that UEFA will wait a further year before the Europa League follows suit.

Giorgio Marchetti, the organisation’s deputy general secretary, admitted that VAR was “obviously not impossible but very complex, and requires a lot of planning”.

“The Europa League would follow exactly like GLT (goal-line technology), because of this complexity of the operations,” he said, confirming that the idea would be to wait another season.

Meanwhile, reports in Germany on Thursday indicated that UEFA were considering bringing back a third continental club competition, two decades after the Cup Winners’ Cup was scrapped.

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UEFA president Ceferin (L) presenting David Beckham with an award in Monaco on Thursday © AFP / Valery HACHE

Sport Bild said the idea was to start a 32-team tournament from 2021, reducing the number of participants in the Europa League from the current 48 down to 32 and further opening up continental competition to sides from smaller countries.

But Ceferin said: “They are just discussions, is it better to have 64 in the Europa League or 32 and 32? They are just discussions.”

– Restoring competitive balance –

The 50-year-old, who succeeded Michel Platini as UEFA president in 2016, looks set to be re-elected early next year, with a vote taking place in Rome in February.

The increasing dominance in the Champions League of an elite few raises ever greater concerns about competitive balance, something Ceferin says is his “greatest challenge” going forward.

He is nevertheless optimistic that a breakaway, closed league for the super rich will not happen.

“I think, as much as I spoke to the big clubs, that it’s clear to them that the competition only between the big clubs will not happen and would be very boring, and they understand that for the development of football they have to share some money,” he said.

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