Like it or not, football fans are going to have to live with the reality that Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is here to stay.
This video-assisted revolution in the way the game is played an officiated has been around at the top of the game for a couple of years now, with FIFA having moved to step up the use of technology for the ongoing Women’s World Cup in France.
While VAR has its numerous supporters, these are matched by a weight of numbers who suggest it has cost the game a sense of spontaneity and joy, with matches regularly held up by minutes while an official in a truck makes a call unseen to those thousands in the stadiums.
There is no doubt that there have been successes for the system – there already is far less tugging in the penalty box at corners and set pieces, for example – though even advocates of its use are not universally convinced that it is being implemented in the correct manner.
With that in mind, here are four suggestions on how to improve the use of technology.
#5 Stick to clear and obvious errors
Traditionalists would argue that the entire weight of refereeing a game should be placed on the shoulders of the referee and his assistants. With so much money and pride now riding on the modern-day matches, and surrounded by an unprecedented level of media scrutiny from all over the globe, this is a weary – and somewhat unjust – burden for a small collective to bear.
Inevitably, split-second decisions will be called incorrectly but for supporters who are purists of the game, these calls add to the joy and the circus of the match.
No longer is this the case, however. Those from afar can summon the referee when he or she has missed the slightest indiscretion in the penalty box, conjuring up a match-altering decision from the most innocent defensive slip.
In FIFA’s media release before the 2018 World Cup, it stressed that only “clear and obvious” errors would be overturned on subjective calls; clearly, this is not the case.
While major indiscretions, such as an off-the-ball elbow or the referee missing a blatant foul, undeniably deserve to be punished, let’s stop fretting over the little stuff and at least leave a little corner of the game to the traditionalists who take pleasure from the natural chaos of the sport.