Battle lines drawn as Safa and PSL fight over VAR

The feud between the PSL and the South African Football Association (Safa) is intensifying after the mother body announced it is forging ahead with the implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in local matches.

This is the second time the two bodies are not reading from the same page in recent times. In January, the PSL wrote a letter to Safa, declining Bafana Bafana’s request for the early release of players for the back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Liberia.

News reaching Sunday World is that the PSL is getting desperate to have VAR and is also exploring the idea of implementing it after referees were under siege following a barrage of faulty officiating in league games. However, Safa has made it clear in a statement that “in terms of the Fifa Statutes, it is the MA’s (member association) right to oversee and implement all of the referees structures and programmes.”

This is a veiled reference to stopping the PSL in its tracks regarding effecting TV refereeing.

An insider has revealed that while VAR falls under refereeing, the national association does not have enough funds to implement it. “Safa does not want to lose this important innovation to the cash-flush league. It is very keen to hold on to it, hence the speed it moved at this week when it released a statement,” said our informer.

Said PSL general manager Ace Ncobo: “We (PSL) want VAR like yesterday. We have a long-standing working relationship with Safa as far as professional refereeing is concerned. VAR falls under the ambit of professional refereeing, therefore we anticipate that we will extend the current collaboration on refereeing matters. We foot the bill for referees’ travelling, we pay their remuneration, and we contribute towards their training and development – so we are ready as the PSL to extend and assist that collaboration.”

According to the Safa statement, the association’s president Danny Jordaan recently met former referee Pierluigi Collina where the two discussed the idea of asking the Italian to come to South Africa and help set up the VAR structures.

The statement further explains that South Africa has only four VAR-trained officials – Victor Gomes, Zakhele Siwela, Akhona Makalima and rising star Abongile Tom, and by roping in Collina, the country will expedite the long-awaited implementation of VAR.

“I have met a lot of influential football people globally lately and when I was in Paris (France) last week, I met, among others, Collina and Arsene Wenger and we want to tap into their expertise as we move towards revamping and taking our game to the next level,’’ said Jordaan.

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