Video Assistant Referee: Good or Bad?
The use of such technology in football has often been tinged with controversy. After all, the Premier League is the most entertaining football competition in the world. Part of that reputation comes from the countless mistakes made by officials which impact the result of a game. With the addition of a Video Assistant Referee, will these mistakes be reduced? Controversial decisions are the lifeblood of the game. They cause us anguish and joy in equal measures, with talking points dissected in pubs across the country. So would the introduction of VAR potentially hamper the excitement of our game?
The ‘pros’ for the use of VAR are self-evident. Many people can remember goals that have been given which have affected results. Think of Maradonna’s ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. Or perhaps Thierry Henry’s handball which allowed France to progress to the 2010 World Cup tournament, at the expense of opponents Republic of Ireland.
If VAR had been around, those goals would not have stood and the future may well have been different. Thankfully, those kind of incidents are few and far between. Most of the controversial decisions made by referees involve simulation by players, with the resultant awarding of penalties or dismissals. If the referee was able to access VAR to combat diving, or to replay an incident involving violent conduct, then the game could be policed better. Managers would no longer be able to moan about errant decisions going against their team. Goal-line technology, for instance, has revolutionised the way goals are now awarded. Before its use, officials had a millisecond to make a decision either way. They would be hounded by the media after, especially if the wrong decision was made. Now, there are no complaints.
The idea of VAR is a good one, in theory. But how will it be implemented into the game? According to the FA, the use of the system will be used in four different situations; the awarding of goals, the awarding of penalties, the issue of straight red cards and mistaken identity. Whilst those categories cover the more important issues in a game, the time to actually go to VAR and make the decisions will always be important. Is it worth stopping a good, fast-flowing game in order to replay an incident?
There is a growing concern that referees could go to VAR as a security blanket for themselves. Could they be influenced by players to check video footage? This could potentially disrupt the momentum of the game, which in turn could lead to unexpected advantages/disadvantages for the two teams. Many supporters will be wary of the time taken to use the Video Assistant Referee. It remains to be seen whether a time limit will be introduced. Also, who is able to request that VAR be used? Can managers on the sideline request decisions to be challenged? If so, will they have a limit on how many times they can use VAR?
Without a doubt, the idea of a Video Assistant Referee is a good one. However, the implementation of the system is the issue. So many questions have been raised and not just around the mechanics of VAR. Many fans see it as an affront to their sport and the culture that comes with it. We wait and see how it goes down at this year’s Football world cup.