Some say it makes the game more fair, others say it’s just not cricket. Love it or hate it, VAR is changing world football before our very eyes. Rolled out for the first time in World Cup history, VAR and its implementation has sparked fierce debate as to whether its inclusion helps or hinders the World Game. Here’s my take.
How it works:
Usually, the decision review system is used when a referee fails to award a penalty. A referee will let play continue until receiving word from a team of referees that his decision may be wrong, in which case he runs to the sideline to watch a replay and is afforded the option of reversing his decision. There are various other applications of the technology, for example direct red card decisions may be reviewed as well, but it appears as though penalty decisions are far more common.
The most obvious point to be made here is of course the fact that more decisions are being correctly made. FIFA boldly declared that 99.3% of all decisions made in the World Cup so far have been correct, which takes away a lot of the controversy surrounding situations where refereeing decisions have had an unfair and much more significant impact on the game than they should have (think Australia v Italy in 2006).
Many think the spectacle of the game is being sullied by the use of VAR. A decision is made, the game continues only to be halted 20 seconds later for an issue to be examined which takes on average 80 seconds to be resolved. That’s a fairly long time, especially if a penalty is awarded which would then add another two or three minutes to set up. That’s a huge stoppage for a crowd to sit through, not to mention a momentum killer for the players.
“The VAR prefers to spend five or 10 seconds more to be very, very sure,” Pierluigi Collina, head of FIFA’s referee committee said in press conference. “Accuracy is very important even if it costs 10 seconds, the important thing is to achieve the correct result.”
IS that really the most important thing? For me referring was always about making the most accurate decision you can make given what you saw. VAR seems to encourage referees to not make bold and controversial decisions in big moments because they know they’ll be saved by VAR if they make a mistake, which inherently means that it encourages referees to make bad decisions. That isn’t what Football is about.
Furthermore, countless Football figures have scolded the technology for creating more confusion than clarity. The scandals that VAR was created to prevent still somehow seem to happen, just ask the Newcastle Jets who lost this year’s A League Grand Final to a goal which should’ve been disallowed only for the technology to have malfunctioned. Controversies such as this one are the reason the English Premier League has opted to leave the technology out of its competition for yet another season. They can see the problems.
The Bottom Line:
I can preach and complain as much as I want about the technology and what its doing to the sport the world loves, but at the end of the day this is where Football is heading. It’s time to iron out the kinks and eliminate the controversies. If we’re going to have it, let’s at least make sure the thing works properly.