Malta referee director says VAR could be introduced in Malta

Malta FA Director of Refereeing Kevin Azzopardi says 2019 will be a breakthrough in Maltese football with VAR being considered for the Maltese football league

Kevin Azzopardi (left) together with Pierluigi Collina
Kevin Azzopardi (left) together with Pierluigi Collina

VAR is a relatively new concept that is becoming quite popular on an international level. A number of European countries such as Spain, Italy and Germany already invested in this technology that has the aim of reducing mistakes made by the officials. This technology is also on its way in England as well as the UEFA Champions League.

Many didn’t even consider the possibilities of seeing this technology in Malta, but Malta FA Director of Refereeing Kevin Azzopardi argued that in the coming year, the refereeing committee will be studying the possibilities of introducing it.

Azzopardi outlined the achievements of 2018. "These include the organisation of the UEFA winter course for top international referees which was hosted in Malta, a seminar for elite referees in Germany, the restart of exchanges with countries such as Wales and San Marino as well as the consolidation of international appointments for FIFA referees."

However, Azzopardi acknowledged that losing a top referee such as Clayton Pisani had been a terrible development, but the committee needed to move on, nominating Matthew Degabriele on the FIFA panel.

In light of this, Azzopardi also showed satisfaction after managing to retain four referees on the FIFA panel and succeeded in guaranteeing the return of Clinton Cassar as an international referee for Futsal. Despite these positives, Azzopardi made reference to unfair criticism in the media which was not constructive, but praised the referees for rising to the occasion.

When asked about the case of elite referee and FIFA Beach Soccer referee Jude Admin Utulu who was dismissed following allegations of serving as an agent to bring Nigerian players in Malta, Azzopardi acknowledged that it left a “sour taste”.

“When a referee is accused of such wrongdoing, it is never nice to talk about it,” Azzopardi said. At this point, he didn’t want to go further in the case as it is in an appeal stage.

A referee who used to be in the limelight due to a number of controversial decisions is Sandro Spiteri. During this season, this referee was not seen officiating in the Premier League and Azzopardi confirmed that he can only act as fourth official since after analysing last season’s marks, the referee committee decided to demote him from an elite referee to an elite development referee.

Speaking about referees, there were a number of other allegations regarding an ex FIFA referee who had been accused of failing to report an alleged attempt of bribery related to the 2016 FA Trophy final. MaltaToday is informed that the referee investigated is Marco Borg. Here, Azzopardi also acknowledged such case and argued that it had been investigated by the Integrity Officer within the MFA and the conclusions will be made public in the near future.

Regarding the possibilities of clubs knowing who the referees are prior to the match, Azzopardi confirmed that this is going to happen. In fact, he insisted that this is a matter of when.

Azzopardi also discussed the challenges that the referee committee faces when it comes to recruiting referees. As a UEFA study showed, the most challenging part is retaining those referees. In fact, the retention rate across Europe is just 10%. In this context, the aim is to keep referees motivated and willing to learn.

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