In late February, Bundesliga referee Daniel Schlager made history by wearing cameras that showed what a referee sees. Schlager’s camera was attached to his earpiece, allowing him to communicate with VAR. A brief video from the Bundesliga showed that what a referee sees on the field is far different from what fans see from above. That is not news, as people generally agree referees have a challenging job. However, having more readily available referee cameras humanizes officials and clarifies why they make certain decisions. Likewise, it could show the significance of VAR and the crucial role it can play.

In the Bundesliga’s video, Schlager was not the subject of any controversial decisions. The game between Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt finished 2-2, but the visitors scored a goal after just two minutes. From the referee’s perspective, the fast-paced play appears to go down without a hitch. Wolfsburg center-back Maxence Lacroix headed home at the back post. However, VAR identified that the ball hit someone’s hand on its way into the net. In the end, VAR determined it was the defender’s hand that the ball hit, so the goal stood.

Seeing the referee’s view and how VAR comes into play has several implications. On one hand, the VAR decision slowed the game down drastically for something that did not matter. Critics of VAR say there is no pace to the game with these lengthy reviews, particularly when the on-field referee gets the decision right.

At the same time, referee cameras show so much potential for referees to miss minuscule touches that could prove consequential in major moments. Schlager would have no way of seeing the ball come off someone’s hand en route to the goal. Yet, that slight deflection may have thrown off Frankfurt’s Kevin Trapp.

Referee cameras humanize officials in the face of scrutiny

As players from both sides waited to see if the goal would stand, several Eintracht Frankfurt players approached the referee to see the issue. League officials are constantly working toward minimizing protests of this kind. Fortunately for Schlager, Eintracht Frankfurt players were not overly aggressive. Yet, cameras would have played a major role in other referee incidents. That is the benefit that can provide.

For example, in a Real Madrid draw, Jude Bellingham picked up a two-game suspension for protesting a controversial decision. Jesus Gil Manzano brandished a red card for the Englishman for using expletive terms. Having referee cameras could have shown the wild interaction between Real Madrid players and the on-field official.

Added entertainment value and clarification

Many leagues, including the Premier League, have released audio of VAR discussions to back up their decisions on the field. For fans, it sheds light on why certain things happened the way they did in the game. The camera on the referee would serve the same purpose, even if technological limitations cannot assist with VAR decisions.

Also, it is purely entertaining. Soccer fans may struggle to understand how fast top-level soccer is when watching from the stands or a bird’s eye view on TV. Seeing the players move and play from a referee’s perspective can make a fan appreciate not just the athletes on both teams but also the referee, who must keep the game under control.