The video assistant referee, also known as VAR, is still quite new to football. But it has caused plenty of controversy in the leagues and competitions around the world where it is in use.
In Germany for example, hardly a Bundesliga weekend passes without passionate debate between fans, coaches, players and experts alike about the merits, or lack thereof, of the use of this technological tool for referees.
On the one hand, it drastically reduces refereeing errors. This is something all friends of the "Beautiful Game" should support. But the process of how VAR is used must be made more transparent for all involved. How that is to be done is in itself a hot topic. As is the sad fact that no technology in the world will ever completely eliminate all refereeing errors, given that the referees are still humans and thereby imperfect creatures, who make mistakes.
But to magnify such mistakes and use them as reasons to try and abolish VAR altogether as the Germans, in particular, do week-in-week-out is highly counterproductive.
What needs to happen instead is an open dialog within national associations, continental confederations and FIFA itself on how to improve transparency, speed up decisions of disputed incidents, and further reduce errors.
On the issue of transparency, it has yet to become clear to fans and players which incident the video referees are reviewing and what for. More importantly, there must be a way to show everyone involved what the refs are looking at, and why they have ultimately made the decision they have. The big video screens available in many stadiums today should be used for this purpose.
The decision to limit VAR use to a few areas of the game was correct because football's beauty comes from its relative simplicity and from the rarity of interruptions in its flow.
The problem may be that close offside decisions are subject to VAR use when they should not be. The old instruction to linesmen was to give the attacking team the benefit of the doubt when it comes to offside. That is no longer the case, as there is not only an offside line drawn on the screen, but also a vertical line to check whether or not a small toe may have been offside which would otherwise not be visible.
Lastly, football is a simple game, over-complicate it at its peril!Published 09 Feb 2019, 16:58 IST