Was the use of the scoreboard discussed from the start or did its involvement evolve?
It has always been used, but what we have is dependent on broadcaster commitment, anyway. The key really is to blend in with the spectator. There is no Public Address system used by the Rugby Football League in the UK, but it is used in National Rugby League, Australia’s version of the code.
How long does it take to train British video refs?
Regular training is required and who does it has evolved from retired refs to active ones, as it is felt that they know the policy and implement it better.
Why just one, not two or one plus an assistant or some other combination?
Different models have been tried. The NRL adopt a three-man panel model, the last World Cup used two VRs and the UK uses one as there is a belief two can cause confusion and an issue with who has the final say if there is a disagreement.
Sounds familiar already! Do similar age rules apply to those for regular refs?
There are no age rules.
Do you feel anything would significantly differ if budget were to be no issue at all?
The NRL use a bunker system that costs a lot of money. We only have VR on games which are televised and so the number of cameras and the speed of decision would be easier with more of a budget. It comes down to being able to pause, rewind and give a decision while play continues, as they have the facilities to do at Stockley Park, where they have based football’s VAR.
And, unlike with the use of VAR in Australia’s A-League, there don’t seem to be any complaints or issue with video refs in NRL. Here, on the other hand, the RFL is currently reviewing the way things are done as there is a feeling there might be too much influence and too many interventions by the VR.
However, speaking as someone who follows professional football quite closely, the amount of money at stake alone demands they get VAR right, which means not rushing it!
How much of a factor are complaints about how late games are finishing when video refs are used?
Again it comes down to the amount of checks and the limit of its use to certain areas, which is currently a live debate.
Who had the job of turning the protocol into words set out in black and white?
Are there rules or guidelines we could all access, either as a PDF or in some other format?
They do exist but they are not available to the public.
Were appeals from coaches considered or are they indeed possible in future, somewhat like the way they are used in tennis and cricket?
This has indeed been discussed without ultimately being decided upon.
There is, of course, a FIFA World Cup around the corner, and differences between interpretations of different federations are among the major concerns going in. Was this an issue for the RL World Cup down under last year, for example, or the one hosted by the UK in 2013?
Agreed interpretations from RLIF (the world governing body) have been the same since 2013. There was a piece of work undertaken overseen by the two respective heads of matches at NRL and RFL between 2016 and 2017 and the two are very close as a result. But as part of the standardising process you need reviews on an annual basis, which lead to amendments and that’s where we are now.
Given it was 1996 when the Super Nines first utilised a VR, how did the technology help move the sport on at international level in historic terms, from the 2000 World Cup and 2004 non-World Cup, if at all?
Quite simply: higher accuracy in decision making.
When it comes to drawing the line, is there a consensus to only view from the play-the-ball (PTB) when reviewing a try? Or restrict it to whether or not ball has been grounded?
We can only go back to the last PTB and only from where the ball is back in play – that much has been agreed as going back further causes too many grey areas and too much disruption as to logic on how far you can go back.
Is there general approval of the lack of adjudication on forward passes, to single out a specific Law?
Our sport, in this country at least, currently wants to rail back the VR’s use, not increase it. Forward passes are always going to be difficult, as different angles make a pass look different.
Is there consensus on the maximum time for a review to take?
No, accuracy is the most important thing – with training VRs simply get quicker.
Finally, do you have a hypothetical lesson you could give to those tasked with football’s implementation, or a friendly piece of advice given so many years’ experience?
You have to be factual once you go and there was so much confusion and damage caused by that one FA Cup tie last season, between Huddersfield and Manchester United [Kevin Friend was the ref, Neil Swarbrick the VAR and Juan Mata’s ‘offside’ goal the bone of contention], that it made me question whether a competition as important as the FA Cup was the best place to be trialling the system in the first place.
They should make a virtue of the crowd being on board and not leave them dangling, but I’m sure they are working on that. You should be able to get to a place where you celebrate, not dread the correct decision.
Education obviously comes into it and, no matter how quickly the decisions are made, we will have to come to terms, in returning to that FA Cup tie, with the frustration that can arise from getting a call 100% correct!