Spanish league expects to be using video referees by 2018

MADRID: The Spanish league is expected to be using video referees in 2018, its president said on Monday following widespread criticism of a mistake that cost Barcelona a goal at the weekend.

The league initially said it would not comment on the missed call in Barcelona's 1-1 draw at Real Betis on Sunday, but president Javier Tebas later told local media that video refereeing will be implemented as soon as it's fully approved by FIFA.

"We have always defended the use of technology in soccer and in this case we believe that video referees is the most advanced option," Tebas said. "The tests are already underway. I believe that beginning in July 2018, if FIFA approves it, we will start using it."

Tebas said video referees would be favored over the goal-line technology that is in place in other European leagues. He said systems such as Hawkeye were too expensive to be used only a few times each year.

"This year there were three other similar cases and nobody said much about it," he said. "Maybe people are making such a big deal this time because the ball went in by a big margin."

The goal-line technology would have helped in the controversial play at Benito Villamarin Stadium in Seville, just after the hosts scored to lead Barcelona 1-0.

A Betis defender tried to intercept a cross into the area but sent the ball toward his own net. A teammate came charging to clear the ball away from the goal, but it clearly crossed the line by the time he got to it. The linesman stayed in place instead of running toward midfield to signal a goal, and the referee went along with the decision.

"You could see it clearly, the ball was a metre (yard) inside the goal," Barcelona striker Luis Suarez said.

Another similar play happened just a few moments later to prompt even more complaints from Barcelona players, but that time the ball appeared to be on the goal-line when it was cleared by a defender.

"In the second goal, you can clearly see that the ball doesn't cross the line, but in the first one it does," Barcelona player Aleix Vidal said. "It was a very serious error, but the referees aren't to blame. If we could use the Hawkeye, then we wouldn't be talking about this now."

Coach Luis Enrique said he was in favor of having outside aid for the officiating crews.

"The referees need help, whether it's with cameras or whatever, for decisions that favor us or go against us," he said. "The technology can help us, I've already said that before."

The draw left Barcelona four points behind leader Real Madrid, which has a game in hand.