Tuesday 29 March 2022, 03:00

Argentina inaugurates model Centre for Refereeing Technology and Development to launch VAR

  • The AFA's new VOR Building stands out among South America's member federations

  • The facility will centralise VAR training and its implementation in the country

  • New centre built and fitted out with the support of FIFA's Forward Programme

Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, declared himself "amazed" at the venue, not only for the effectiveness of its design, but also for "its fine style". Massimo Busacca, Director of FIFA's Refereeing Department, compared it to a "good Ferrari", stressing that it was something such a footballing country "deserved to have"... What is certain is that the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) is now just one step away from implementing video refereeing and the use of video assistant referees (VAR), after the inauguration on 21 February of its Centre for Refereeing Technology and Development (CTDA in Spanish) at its headquarters in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires. Also known as the VOR (Video Operating Room) Building, the CDTA was built and equipped with the support of the FIFA Forward Development Programme, which contributed just over two million US dollars. This 900m2 smart building has seven VOR rooms to operate VAR, an auditorium for training, and offices for the AFA’s National Refereeing Directorate.

In addition to Collina and Busacca, among the other speakers at the centre’s landmark opening were Federico Beligoy, the AFA’s National Director of Refereeing; Jair Bertoni, FIFA's Director of Member Associations Americas; and Claudio Tapia, AFA President and the main driving force behind the project. "This started in 2019, when President Tapia approached me and said he wanted there to be technology in Argentinian football. That's when we started our quest to learn about how VAR worked around the world. We looked at leagues with centralised and decentralised VAR systems and then decided on this building for a centralised one. In such a large country, it was the best solution," Beligoy told FIFA.com. The former international referee regretted how the pandemic had delayed the training programme but confirmed that, following FIFA and IFAB certification of 50 Argentinian referees and the inauguration of the VOR building, VAR would be launched on the first weekend of April 2022 for the eighth round of fixtures in the men’s Copa de la Liga Profesional.

Inauguration of AFA’ Refereeing Technology and Development Centre (VOR building)

As well as praising the work of the AFA’s Development Committee, Beligoy described as "vitally important" the role played by FIFA in the realisation of the project. "FIFA accompanied us every step of the way, while understanding and attending to our requirements and helping us to see it through," he said. For his part, Jair Bertoni told FIFA.com that "this is a project of huge importance, given that FIFA wants to promote and utilise VAR right around the world. The collaboration between FIFA and the AFA required to develop a project of this magnitude – one that will really benefit refereeing in the country – was crucial to getting FIFA involved from the conception of the idea and its subsequent planning, to assisting with experts and management tools and ensuring its funding through the FIFA Forward Development Programme." Bertoni highlighted some particular details of the project, such as "the great fibre optic cabling work that ensures connectivity between the stadiums of the first division clubs around the country and the operations centre, all carried out in accordance with the required standards." He then clarified that the VOR Building "will centralise the VAR platform for all professional matches, starting with men's football and in a near future extending to other categories, including women's football."

Some figures from the project

  • USD 1,846,225.25: FIFA Forward funding for the work

  • USD 288,059.96: FIFA Forward funds for the purchase of furniture and equipment

  • 26 stadiums connected via certified fibre optics (two close to certification)

  • More than 2800 kilometres of fibre optic cabling

  • 40 FIFA/IFAB certified referees

  • 13 FIFA/IFAB certified operators

  • 14 weeks of referee training

  • 96 matches in the final stage of referee education for certification

  • 192 offline VAR matches during 2021

Recalling FIFA President Gianni Infantino's words of praise for the CTDA on his last visit to the country, Claudio Tapia also shared his satisfaction with FIFA.com. "This building enhances the values of the tool, and what it will be like to have VAR in our football. After having observed those of different federations, this will be one of the best in South America," insisted the AFA president. Among the illustrious guests at the inauguration were the South American referees attending a seminar in preparation for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. That event was headed by Colina and Busacca and held in Buenos Aires thanks to the commissioning of the new building.

Asked what impact the arrival of VAR would have on Argentinian referees, Collina said: "Many have already worked with this system in other competitions. It might be different for referees new to it, but they will respond just as well. VAR will make your life easier, and longer! It's a kind of parachute. They must operate on the pitch as if there is no VAR, and be ready for how difficult and important it is to officiate a game, knowing that if anything goes wrong, there’s something else there to help them." Busacca, meanwhile, had this to say: "In a football country like this, VAR was necessary. Sometimes we talk about centimetres, which are tiny margins for a human referee, because sometimes we forget that they’re human. VAR allows you to make the right decision after something has been reviewed." Nestor Pitana, who took charge of the Opening Game and Final at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, echoed that sentiment, saying: "The fundamental thing is that the essence of refereeing – decision-making on the pitch – is not lost. This is a safeguard, a buffer, a Plan B in case Plan A doesn't work. It is a tool that, when used well, benefits football and adds transparency to the game."