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A-League to crack down on playing for yellow cards as video review revolution looms

Soccer

Graham Arnold won't face sanction for asking players to pick up bookings ahead of the A-League finals but an FFA review could end the controversial practice.

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Arnold asked Sky Blues midfielders Josh Brillante and Brandon O’Neill to earn cautions in the late stages of Saturday night’s win over Melbourne City.

The bookings mean the young pair is scrubbed out of this weekend’s trip to Wellington due to accumulation of yellow cards – thus removing the threat of that occurring a fortnight later in the finals series.

To some, it’s a canny tactic.

But it was a little too crudely employed for A-League chief Greg O’Rourke’s liking, who slapped down the premiership-winning Sydney FC coach.

O’Rourke has spoken with the head of FFA’s integrity unit with a view to banning the practice.

“We’re disappointed that we have coaches out there that are overtly calling for their players to commit fouls,” he said yesterday.

“Right across the world of football this happens but other leagues have taken the step through their integrity units to actually include specific rules that actually sanction this sort of behaviour.

“We don’t currently have those (rules) but we’ll be looking to do that.”

FFA has deemed the matter to fall short of calling the game into disrepute, and so has closed the book on Saturday’s indiscretion.

“We’re not prepared retrospectively take any action (against Arnold),” O’Rourke.

Commentators Mark Bosnich and John Kosmina both backed Arnold’s move given there was nothing in the rules to prevent it.

It comes as A-League officials admit to fears the soon-to-be implemented video assistant refereeing (VAR) system will be misunderstood. But they remain confident the video revolution will improve the sport.

On Friday, Australia will host the first top-tier league match in the world with VARs, when Melbourne City host Adelaide United at AAMI Park.

A-League chief Greg O’Rourke predicts there will be no going back.

Referees boss Ben Wilson has overseen back-room testing of the system, which will be trialled through to the grand final on May 7.

He’s confident it will all run smoothly but has warned fans it will take some getting used to as it’s unlike video systems used in the NRL or cricket.

While many tries or wickets are naturally reviewed and assessed on their merits by video referees, that won’t be the case in the A-League.

Only in four circumstances – goals, red card incidents, penalty incidents and mistaken identity – will the video room, known as a ‘cave’, be consulted.

“It’ll only change the howlers,” Wilson said.

O’Rourke called it a “landmark day” for the code, saying he saw the trial being extended by global law-makers IFAB.

“We’re ready to go,” he said.

“We hope in line with the global test this will be our future.

“The only reason we should stop it is if IFAB abandon it.”

With practice over the course of the season, both men are confident the technology and referees’ ability to implement the system will benefit the game.

In 12 live tests, referees identified 24 key match decisions that would invoke reviews. In three of those instances clear errors were identified and would have been overturned.

The cave will be staffed by a VAR, an assistant VAR and an operational helper at each ground.

When reviews are conducted, replays are likely to be shown at the game and broadcasted.

Once the game has been re-started after an incident, there is no opportunity to review.

Wilson said he didn’t foresee more than a couple of minutes being added to each game under the new rules.

O’Rourke said players, clubs and referees were firmly on board with the move.

Experienced whistle-blower Jarred Gillett said the system would act as a safety net.

“We’re going to referee like it’s not there,” Gillett said.

“We’re still going to give penalties and we’re going to back ourselves.

“But if we don’t give one because we didn’t see it and then we don’t sleep for two or three days because of it, this can catch those ones.”

The system could also be a revenue-raiser for FFA, which will seek an overall referees sponsor from next season.

-AAP

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