A big change is happening in football but not everyone is in favour.
There has been a lot of sneering at Video Assistant Referees (VAR) since it was trialled during this year’s Confederation Cup, ahead of the World Cup next summer. The Confederation Cup final had possibly the most controversial moment as Gonzalo Jara of Chile was spotted elbowing Germany’s Timo Werner in a replay and the VAR spotted the incident. Referee Milorad Mazic watched a replay on a pitch side screen and wrongly gave Jara a yellow card when a red was the correct decision but VAR did its job; it spotted an incident that the ref missed in real time. It was human error that saw Jara stay on the pitch not the use of replays.
Chile’s Eduardo Vargas had a goal disallowed against Cameroon with the decision taking 68 seconds to overturn with the VAR. Yes that’s a long stoppage in play, but if you’re a fan of Cameroon, 68 seconds was well worth the wait and justice was served.
All pundits seem to talk on television is about the decisions that referees get wrong in a game and then along comes something that can actually help them and pretty much no one is in favour. During ITVs coverage of the final, Lee Dixon called the use of VAR a shambles. The fans and pundits who are so against using technology to improve the game are often the same people who scream at referees for not spotting a foul or turning down a penalty.
Every football fan has seen their teams lose by a goal that should not have stood, a dodgy penalty be given with no contact or a handball in the area go unpunished. Well, VAR could end all that. In a previous post, I’ve written about refs needed help as players are out to con them at every turn. VAR is the help they desperately need.
Give it time and Video Assistant Referees can work. Football has to be a sport that evolves and fans have to get with the times. VAR will always solve more problems than it causes but there needs to be more interpretation of when it is to be used and the speed of the decision. New rules take time to iron out and perfect. It took five years after the back-pass rule was introduced before goalkeepers were stopped from catching their teammates throw-ins, so patience is needed with VAR. In a few years, hopefully it will flourish and clean up the game so that obvious handball in the build-up to a goal or that blatant elbow not spotted will be a thing of the past.