Monday 18 September 2023, 06:00

VAR introduced into the Hong Kong Premier League with funding from FIFA Forward

  • Match between Sham Shui Po and Crownity North District was the first to feature VAR

  • VAR will be used for all HKPL matches

  • HKFA says the use of VAR will raise standards and make the league more attractive

The Football Association of Hong Kong, China (HKFA) has introduced VAR into its professional football league with support from the FIFA Forward Development programme. The first Hong Kong Premier League (HKPL) match to feature VAR was played between Sham Shui Po and Crownity North District on 3 September, and VAR will be used at all matches in the competition from this point onwards as well as Hong Kong FA Cup games. The use of VAR is part of the HKFA’s long-term strategy of raising standards at national team and league level for both men’s and women’s football, with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™ in 2034. The HKFA says the use of VAR in the eleven-team league aims to improve the accuracy of key refereeing decisions, improve players’ discipline, enhance the image of HKFA competitions, familiarise Hong Kong players with the VAR system, and attract more spectators and commercial sponsors. It hopes it will also help Hong Kong host international tournaments in the future.

“Thanks to the FIFA Forward for supporting the implementation of VAR in Hong Kong. This surely helps to open a new chapter for the development of local referee services, in a way to align with the best international standard,” said HKFA Chairman Erik Fok. VAR had an immediate impact as it was used to disallow a Sham Shui Po goal for offside in the 15th minute when the score was 1-1. The HKFA’s Head of Refereeing Charles Cheung said he was pleased with the way VAR had worked. “Players, officials and even spectators still need time to get used to the system because this is something new for them, but it looked fine in this first match,” he said. FIFA Forward Programme funded a substantial portion of the total project cost, while the remainder was generously supported by the Culture Sports & Tourism Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The Forward funds have been used to cover the costs of live production, the purchase of FIFA-licensed VAR technology, hardware equipment and the cost of training for referees and video match officials (VMOs). The VMO’s will operate from a permanent operations room at the Kai Tak Sports Park available in 2024. Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee said: “We are pleased to see another FIFA Member Association utilise the technology that is available, with the introduction of VAR to all Hong Kong Premier League games. We will now see more correct decisions made with the use of the technology. Of course we know that VAR does not mean perfection but it is a very important safety net. We have already seen VAR used to good effect globally and I am sure we will see the same in Hong Kong.”

Football Development