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NWSL prepares to implement VAR ahead of 2023 season

(Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL will become the first women’s domestic professional league to implement video assistant referee (VAR) technology in 2023, and the league has revealed more details about its plans.

VAR allows for the review of certain calls, including goals, penalties and red cards. When the NWSL introduces VAR, it will use Hawk-Eye, the same VAR provider used by Major League Soccer, Sports Business Journal reported Thursday.

Referees will receive wireless radios to allow them to communicate with the Hawk-Eye video review room in Atlanta. The camera angles available in that video review room also will be shown to fans, both those in the stands and those watching on television.

NWSL executive producer Brian Gordon credited commissioner Jessica Berman, who joined the league in March, with the push to implement VAR for the 2023 season.

“When she came in, this was a very big focus because we want to make sure that we’re giving the officials all the tools they have to be able to make the best decisions when there are close calls,” Gordon told Sports Business Journal.

Yet while a VAR system is positioned as a boon for referees and for fans, it also requires extensive preparation, both to bring the technology (including at least six cameras) to each NWSL stadium and to train the officials.

The Professional Referee Organization, which supplies the NWSL with referees, is hosting VAR training sessions at IMG Academy in Florida ahead.

“VAR is a tool,” Gordon said. “It’s not the end all be all for officiating. It’s going to help make our officials better.”

Gotham FC minority owner Carli Lloyd, who also played for the club and for the U.S. women’s national team, supports the addition of VAR in the league.

“I think VAR has changed the game,” she told Sports Business Journal. “It’s helped it in some way with just keeping players in check. You’ve got cameras that are watching every second at every different angle, so it’s really hard to get away with things.”