As soccer fans, we can all agree that referees are an enormous talking point. Intentional handball’s gone unnoticed, dodgy offside calls, fouls in the penalty area waived away. The scrutiny directed towards the officials can come from all angles.
We do not forget their mistakes. Arsenal fans remember how Manchester United managed to end their famous unbeaten run at 49 matches in 2004.
They Are Only Human
The fundamental problem with referees is this: they are only human.
Consequently, they do the best they possibly can. And sometimes, that still isn’t enough. If an Assistant Referee trains for their entire adult life they will still incorrectly judge players offside. When the referee does not see a tackle because a player is in his line of vision, how can he make the correct call? They must resort to making a guess, or making no call at all.
Guessing and making incorrect decisions is not fair to the fans or the players. People invest huge amounts of time and money into this sport and they deserve to have fair and consistent officials.
So how do we go about implementing this fairness and consistency? The answer could be the introduction of Video Assistant Referees, or VAR.
The Nature Of The System
VAR is exactly what it stands for; it is a video assistant to the referee. The referee uses this video assistant in 4 instances.
- A goal has been allowed. If the referee feels there has been an infraction in the build up to a goal, he or she can use the video assistant.
- Questionable penalties. A foul in the box that was not clearly seen by the referee, a handball, a subtle elbow or punch—these could all be reviewed to determine if they warrant a spot kick.
- Red card offenses. If a very hard foul is committed that might warrant a red, or the referee does not clearly see a dangerous infraction, he or she can use video technology to make a more accurate decision.
- Mistaken identity. Again, the referees are only human, and mistaking one of the 22 players on the field for another is certainly possible. These instances are reviewed by VAR.
How Does This VAR System Work?
It is relatively simple. When one of the aforementioned instances arises, there are two scenarios. They can either summon the video assistant referee, or they can be summoned by the video assistant. If one of these two actions takes place, a video assistant referee watches several video replays of the incident. This is done pitch-side, from several different angles.
They then report back to the referee with their thoughts and advice on the situation in question. From here, the referee can decide to watch the replays at a monitor situated at the side of the field. They can follow the advice of the video assistant without any questions. Or, they can abide by his original decision on the field.
All of this sounds very good. It seems as though this new technology will lead to a drastic reduction in the amount of wrong decisions. The VAR will affect other aspects of the game, apart from the execution of laws.
How Much Time Can VAR Take?
VAR’s process can take quite a long time, which affects the game in a negative way. A long break in play can slow a team’s momentum. The last thing a team chasing an equalizer in extra time wants is a five minute break for their opposition to re-group.
A drawback of the VAR is that decisions are made incorrectly after review.
This is debatable. The referee makes subjective calls. Such an incident occurred during the Confederations Cup of 2017. Gonzalo Jara, delivered what looked like a deliberate elbow to the face of Timo Werner. The referee used VAR. A yellow card was given. Either the referee misinterpreted the decision even with the help of the video replay, or he actually believed the foul only warranted a yellow.
No matter how we view the situation, the tackle was almost certainly a red card offense. The foul seemed such a blatant red card that it caused consternation among the fans and the media following the match.
A goal scored in an offside position is another complicated case that could cause problems for the officials. If a goalkeeper sees an offside flag raised before an attacker shoots, he could stop playing and not attempt to make a save. When VAR is consulted and the attacker is deemed onside does the goal stand? If so, then the fairness of the game has been compromised.
The goalkeeper abided by an offside flag and did not attempt to stop the advancing attacker. Because of this, he conceded a goal that was then said to actually be onside. This is a very complicated issue. Yes, it is a fabricated scenario, but it is a situation which could happen in reality. The video assistant referee must account for every possible scenario that could arise in the future.
The Future Of VAR
Video Assistant Referee looks to certainly have a future in the Premier League.
It’s only in the developing stages now. In the future it should be a regular occurrence during the weekly slate of matches. It does have its problems. We have to remember how new this kind of technology is to the game. Only when VAR has been in use for a number of years can we truly make a decision on its effectiveness.
It seems to be the perfect solution to the refereeing problem. Video replay is an extremely useful tool in managing a game properly. In the United States, every major sport has made video replay available to their officials.
Do they still get some decisions wrong? Yes, but how many would they get wrong without the video replay?
The future of the Premier League can make VAR a very important part of the refereeing system. With correct implementation, the system could improve the quality of decisions made by referees in a monumental fashion.
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