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VAR IN FOOTBALL: BENEFICIAL OR DAMAGING?

VAR also known as Video Assistant Referee is a word that has become synonymous with football. It is being used in many competitions, both domestic and international. We can talk about the FIFA World Cup, Champions League, Eredivisie, La Liga and others. It is set to make it entrance into England’s top division this season after a trial run in the Carabao Cup. Before that development occurs in the premier and probably other sports, let’s us recap what we know about the technology. We can also learn what we don’t know about it, the benefits as well as the disadvantages.

The logo of VAR that is being used in football nowadays.
A picture of a VAR Screen.

VAR IN FOOTBALL: HISTORY.

The idea for this technology called Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was born during the Refereeing 2.0 project in 2010. It was under the direction of the Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) that the idea came about. The idea was turned into the technology we know today and was tested through mock trials during the 2012/13Eredivisie season. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved the technology for trials during its 2016 general meeting. The idea behind this technology was to protect referees from making mistakes that are immediately visible to everyone. An example of the mistake was the Thierry Henry handball that eliminated Ireland from 2010 World Cup qualification.

A live trial of the technology began in August 2016. It was used in a United Soccer League (USL) match. It was also used in a friendly between France and Italy. A pitchside monitor that allows the referee to review footage from the field was introduced during the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup. The Australian A-League was the first professional club competition to use the technology. During the match between Wellington and Sydney on April 2017 the VAR made it first intervention, awarding Sydney FC a penalty for an illegal handball. Since then the VAR has made a gradual inroad into football by being deployed in the Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga etc. It will debut in the English Premier League this season.

VAR: IT USE AND INTERPRETATION.

The Video Assistant Referee technology (VAR) is used in four main situations. The first of them is when an attacking team commits an offence, ball goes out of play, ball entering goal, handball, offences and encroachment during penalty kicks [goal or no goal situation].

VAR also comes into play when a penalty should be awarded or not. Under this situation a review is made when an attacking team commits an offence, ball goes out of play, location of offence is not clear, incorrect awarding of penalty, and offence is not penalized.

A referee checking the VAR monitor.
A referee checking the VAR monitor.

The technology is also used when there is a denial of obvious goal-scoring opportunity through foul or violent conduct (biting, spitting, insulting, gestures, abusive language).

VAR is again used to review the case of mistaken identity. That is, situations where the wrong person has been booked or carded.

VAR IN FOOTBALL: BENEFITS.

The Video Assistant referee has several benefits or advantages in the modern game.

One of the advantages the technology has is that it correctly awards or wave away unmerited penalties that would have otherwise been given. The technology review cases to see if the penalty incident merits a penalty or not.

Another benefit of the technology is that it combats against diving. It becomes difficult for the referee to spot diving incidents in a match clearly but the technology help makes the referee certain. This certainty allows the referee to take actions.

VAR also helps the beautiful game in the sense that it disallows goals that touched the scorer’s hand or was scored through a foul incident or offside position. This things in the past made players and officials angry but it has been reduced drastically thanks to VAR.

A number of VAR Screens in the Control Room.
A number of VAR Screens in the Control Room.

VAR IN FOOTBALL: DAMAGES.

The technology, aside all it benefits has been criticized for a number of reasons. The reasons being cited are a hindrance to the growth of football. Some of the criticisms levelled are discussed below.

VAR has been criticized for creating as much confusion as clarity. The technology has been involved in several contentious moments in several competitions and matches all over the world. We can talk about the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup as an example. Other contentious moments are when penalties are decided, goals awarded or ruled out. This confusion it creates instead of clarity mars the beautiful game.

The technology suffers criticism for time wasting. The VAR takes a lot of time when reviewing certain incidents. It can take as much as 2 or 3 minutes to review incidents. Although additional time is always added, it ends up increasing the time players play the match as well as the time fans watch the match. This is damaging to football.

VAR is also criticized for frequently suffering from issues preventing it use. The malfunctions the technology suffers are from a variety of issues. One of those are situations where supporters’ flags obscure the VAR camera. Some are the technical malfunction of its software. Other situations are when the technology malfunctions due to radio interference. All these issues damage the beauty of the game we love.

VAR: CONCLUSION.

The technology without a doubt is a good one as it limits mistakes that is made in the game. On the other hand, the attempt to limits mistakes sometimes create new ones. So does the merits of the technology outweigh that of the disadvantages. I leave that for you to judge using the comment section of the post. Invite your friends to join the arguments by sharing the article with them.

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4 comments

  1. Technology is a part of all sports and it is slowly growing more in each. I feel that if you are going to have tech in sports to go all in.

    Instant replay continues to show how many calls ar consistently missed by umpires and referees.

    If the goal is to get the calls right every time, then the only way to do it is to eliminate the human element.

  2. brokehockeymom101

    It makes me wonder if the technology will expand to incorporate AI technology and eliminate refs. I wonder how this impacts fans. Will they lose interest if adversity is eliminated because there will be perfectly called games. Wil this lead to no one wanting to go to games?

    • That is the big question. Those few mistakes make the game more fun and interesting. So what happens when we loose all those aspect of the game and it becomes boring and predictable.

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