The International Football Association Board, the body that decides the laws of the game, agreed to trial video assistant referees in March and is currently holding its second workshop for interested associations and leagues at the home of the New York Red Bulls. Last month, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands and the United States signed up to test the concept "offline", with "live" pilots, where real decisions will be decided by replays, starting in 2017. Elleray said "two or three" more associations have since agreed to join the pilot phase but would not confirm if any of the Home Nations are among them, although he did say they were all taking a "close interest" in developments. The Dutch FA, which hosted the first workshop in May, has been trialling video assistant referees "offline" for the last three seasons and claims it has "improved" almost one in four decisions. It also said replay decisions have taken an additional 12 seconds on average. Elleray, an IFAB advisor who recently led a comprehensive review of football's laws, said the Dutch experiments looked at every decision during a game, whereas IFAB will "start narrow". "The advice we got from every sport that is doing this already was that you should not try to review too much," said the 61-year-old Englishman. "There will always be decisions in football that are subjective, even when you have looked at the replay, so we want to focus on those key decisions that are clearly wrong".
Elleray said replays would only be used to settle decisions on goals, penalties and straight red cards, with assistance also offered in cases of mistaken identity for red and yellow cards. As an example, Elleray said the workshop had discussed the goal that Peru's Raul Ruidiaz scored with his hand to knock Brazil out of last month's Copa America. It was clearly visible on TV replays but the referee and his assistants missed it. He pointed that it took five minutes for the referee to restart the game but said IFAB would not be putting a time limit on video assistant referee decisions. "Accuracy is more important than speed," Elleray added. The system will work by having a video assistant referee watching live footage of the game from the broadcasters' cameras in a truck or control room. They will be in contact with the referee via a two-way radio and he or she can either ask for their assistance or be guided by the video assistant referee. Elleray explained that for factual decisions - was a player fouled inside or outside the box, for instance - the referee will most likely just take the video assistant's advice, but for more subjective calls the referee will signal for a TV replay and then review the footage on a tablet computer at the side of the pitch. The former geography teacher said he believed it would take four to six months to train video assistant referees to the system but said there was "every chance" major leagues will be using them in 2018. Friendlies and ties in domestic cup competitions are likely to be the first games to have "live" trials next year, and a final decision to approve the law change will be made in 2018 at the earliest and 2019 at the latest.