It seems as if soccer fans will not soon hear live conversations between referees during VAR replays. International Football Association Board (IFAB) executive Lukas Brud revealed these discussions will remain private for now. IFAB currently helps determine the official laws of the sport. FIFA has recognized the group as lawmakers for over 100 years.
Brud made the comments regarding broadcasting VAR audio during a recent interview on BBC Radio. Journalists asked Brud if he felt fans should hear the live communication. He then also explained that the audio would be too “chaotic” for the listeners. “I categorically say no, they shouldn’t,” stated Brud.
“I was allowed to observe and see communication between match officials during a review and it is quite a chaotic situation, not in a negative sense but there’s many people talking at the same time and I think it would be counterproductive for anyone to listen to all those voices talking to each other.”
“Then you have the VAR and the assistant VAR, the replay operators, the referee, and maybe even the assistant referees and fourth official, so all of a sudden it becomes quite a chaotic experience.”
“We have given the green light to test the announcement of decisions to bring a little more transparency to decision-making, but we are not prepared at this point to open up communication live to the audience.”
Lawmaker claims soccer is ‘different’
There have been calls by fans, particularly in the Premier League, to have the ability to listen in live on refereeing discussions. Some have even suggested to at least have the referee publicly announce major decisions on the pitch. Other professional sports adopted this idea. After all, it can be fairly confusing for fans to understand what exactly occurred during a VAR review. This is especially the case for those inside the stadium.
Nevertheless, Brud claimed soccer differs compared to these other sports. “We cannot compare by simply saying it is the same. In soccer, processes are slightly different,” continued Brud.
“Soccer is different because everyone is putting a magnifying glass on every decision and every single word would then be analyzed in the media and it would create a very unsafe environment for referees. They need to feel safe when they are focused on decision-making.”
A step in the wrong direction for live VAR conversations
Many soccer fans will likely not be happy about IFAB’s decision. Soccer leagues and competitions should welcome refereeing transparency. It can provide context regarding specific decisions that may cause controversy. However, the lawmakers involved focus instead on attempting to protect these referees.
In fact, Mark Bullingham, the chief executive officer of the Football Association (FA), previously revealed that Premier League referees were fighting the release of live audio conversations. This was even though the FA was in favor of fans listening in on the conversations. Referees feel that they are under enough scrutiny as it is and do not want the extra potential heat.
Allowing fans to hear the discussions live places focus on what referees say to one another. This could obviously create even more controversy in the current implementation of VAR. Nevertheless, there will not be anything to hide if the referees are knowledgeable about the rules and are competent in their jobs.
Fans ultimately just want correct decisions to the made during games. VAR reviews are not perfect. They arrived to help make correct calls on the pitch. Changes can happen to improve replays. For example, fans hearing the communication between officials would be a step in the right direction.
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