US coach calls for VAR at Women’s World Cup in France

The coach of the U.S. women’s national team is calling on FIFA to use video review for officiating at the Women’s World Cup next year in France.

Coach Jill Ellis wants the Video Assistant Referee, also known as VAR, to be used for the women’s tournament just as it was for the men’s World Cup this summer in Russia.

“Let’s all start a plan, and a movement, to make sure that it is,” Ellis said. “Because that would be the fair thing, right?”

Asked by The Associated Press whether VAR would be used, or whether a decision had been made, FIFA responded via email: “This will be communicated in due course.”

Use of video replay for the men’s World Cup was not announced until March.

There are questions about whether officials could be trained on VAR before the tournament, which is less than a year out. FIFA also uses female officials at the Women’s World Cup. Those trained with video replay for the tournament in Russia are men.

Ellis doesn’t see this as an obstacle. She suggests just using the men for the VAR role.

“I know there’s training involved with VAR, but guess what? There’s people trained and they just performed in a men’s World Cup,” Ellis said following a recent exhibition game against Chile. “So they’re available.”

Midfielder Megan Rapinoe echoed her coach’s sentiment about VAR in France.

“They obviously did it for the men’s World Cup so I think it’s essential to the spirit of the game. If we don’t have it it’s just utter discrimination,” she said.

The issue has the potential to become contentious heading into the World Cup, much like artificial turf was before the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

A number of players were critical of the plan to stage the event on artificial turf because the men have always played the World Cup on natural grass. Several were part of a lawsuit filed in Canadian Human Rights Court, a case that was later withdrawn.

Ellis’ call for VAR also comes at a time when women have called for greater equity in soccer. The U.S. team fought for better pay and it became part of a collective bargaining agreement reached last year. Other national teams, including Australia, have also won improved compensation from their federations.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has acknowledged that more could be done for the women’s game. There’s no doubt the men’s World Cup every four years is FIFA’s financial juggernaut. But the women are the governing body’s second-biggest commercial asset.

“We have to invest in women’s football. We are thinking of a new women’s world league, because 50 percent of the world population, the ladies, need to be treated in the right way as well in a sport which is said to be macho like football,” Infantino said this summer in Moscow. “We have to invest in women’s football, we have programs and we have ideas.”

Ellis is asking FIFA to prove it.

“I think there’s too much at stake for it not to be in our game. And I think if it’s deserving to be in the men’s game then it is absolutely deserving to be in our game. And my hope is that FIFA will oblige,” Ellis said.

Ellis first discussed VAR in July while in Russia promoting the event for FOX News.

The U.S. team is currently riding a 21-game unbeaten streak heading into the CONCACAF championship, which will determine the World Cup qualifying teams from the North and Central American and Caribbean regions.

The group stage of the qualifying tournament starts next month in Cary, North Carolina, and Edinburg, Texas. The semifinals are Oct. 14 in Frisco, Texas, where the third-place game and championship are scheduled three days later. The top three finishers qualify for the field in France, with the fourth-place team advancing to a playoff for a berth.

The top-ranked U.S. women are the defending World Cup champions.