Retired FIFA referee Howard Webb will be joining the Professional Referee Organization as Manager of Video Assistant Referee Operations. Beginning in March, Webb will oversee the development and education, assessment and assignment of Video Assistant Referees (VARs) for the PRO. During approximately 30 pre-season matches, MLS will continue live, in-game VAR testing with the goal of implementing live, in-game VAR review during MLS regular season matches in the second half of the 2017 season.
Webb retired from an illustrious 25-year career after officiating more than 500 English Premier League and Football League games, overseeing UEFA Champions League games and serving as a referee for UEFA European Championship matches and during two FIFA World Cups. Webb remains the only referee to officiate both a UEFA Champions League final and FIFA World Cup Final in the same year (2010). Following his retirement, Webb served for a short time as the Technical Director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), which develops referee standards and match officials for all English competitions. From 2015 until recently, he was the Director of Referees for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, where he had a 3-year contract that earned him $300,000 annually. Webb has also been a member of the BT Sport broadcast team for UEFA Champions League, utilizing video replay systems to analyze tactical situations and referee decisions in real-time on the air. “I am delighted to join the Professional Referee Organization for this new challenge and contribute to the implementation of what I view as a crucial development for the sport”, Webb said. Howard Webb will be a great asset to PRO in spearheading the VAR project”, PRO General Manager Peter Walton said. “His high-level officiating experience and work as a broadcaster will bring tremendous value as he guides our referees through various VAR testing and assessment exercises ahead of forthcoming VAR implementation”.
A combined 15 of the 22 MLS clubs will gain exposure to live in-game video review during preseason competition, including matches in the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic, 2017 Desert Friendlies, FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Portland Timbers Preseason Tournament, and Carolina Challenge Cup. In addition to the in-game tests during pre-season, offline testing, with no impact on the game, will take place at MLS stadiums during MLS regular season matches from March through August. MLS will look to incorporate video review into MLS matches following the 2017 MLS All-Star Game in August.