As many of you will know, VAR otherwise known as Video Assistant referee has been hugely controversial in the past week.
With Liverpool narrowly missing out on some valuable points at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium due to lack of communication. We thought it was best to discuss the main topic at hand which is VAR.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has several benefits in sports, particularly in football, where it is commonly used. These are the benefits that VAR are supposed to bring:
- Improved Decision Accuracy: This is without a doubt the most important benefit that VAR brings. VAR helps referees make more accurate decisions by reviewing critical incidents such as goals, penalties, red card offences, and cases of mistaken identity. This reduces human error and ensures fair play.
- Fairness: VAR promotes fairness by ensuring that major decisions are based on concrete evidence rather than subjective judgments. It reduces the chances of a team being unfairly disadvantaged due to a wrong decision.
- Transparency: The use of VAR makes decisions more transparent. Fans, players, and coaches can see the video replays, which helps in understanding and accepting the referee's decisions. This can also be seen as a drawback; fans can be quite biased or feel passionate about a decision. It’s very hard for everybody in a ground to agree with a decision.
- Reduced Controversy: VAR reduces post-match controversies and disputes over crucial decisions. This can lead to a more harmonious and less contentious atmosphere in the sport.
- Deterrence: The knowledge that VAR is in use can act as a deterrent against diving, simulation, and other unsporting behaviour, as players know that their actions are more likely to be caught and penalised.
- Consistency: VAR helps maintain consistent application of the rules across different matches and competitions. It ensures that the same standards are upheld in high-stakes matches as well as lower-profile ones.
- Viewing Experience: VAR adds an additional layer of drama and excitement for fans as they await decisions. It becomes a talking point and can add to the overall entertainment value of the sport. You can also spin this, it can take away the initial thrill of scoring a goal or celebrating a big moment in a match because you don’t know if it will be overturned.
While VAR are supposed to offer these benefits, it's not without controversy and challenges, including concerns about the time it takes to review decisions and the interpretation of rules. However, many sports organisations continue to use VAR as a tool to improve the accuracy and integrity of their matches.
VAR Controversy Examples
Tottenham vs Liverpool
Video Assistant Refereeing has grabbed headlines once again after Liverpool's controversial defeat at Tottenham, reminding the footballing community just how divisive the employment of video technology now is in football, and just how insufficient, inconsistent, and brutally unfair the application process is.
Luis Diaz wrongfully had a goal ruled out due to offside, during the match there was a mix up in communication which led the VAR team believing that the on-field decision was ONSIDE. In fact, the on-field decision was offside, so when the VAR team state check complete the referee believes that the play was offside. Check out the video below for a clear representation of the miscommunication that was displayed.
Brentford vs Arsenal
Another failure in the VAR department as Lee Mason who was in charge of the technology for the game focused the VAR investigation on the wrong player. There was a clear offside in the buildup of play but Mason focused on the wrong player. This led to Mason being sacked from his position, this cost Arsenal 2 points!
Everton vs Manchester City
In the mist of a relegation scrap for Everton, they played league leaders Manchester City. City went 1-0 up, then Rodri seemed to of handled the ball very clearly inside the box. VAR decided not to intervene and let the play go on. Everton fans and manager were furious at the decision, rightly so many believed it was a clear penalty!
The introduction of VAR was initially welcomed, with naked-eye refereeing decisions often proving detrimental in games and many branding football "outdated". However, after its introduction in the 2019-2020 season, it has never been too far away from controversy.
Most decisions are still subjective which leads to confusion and debate. There is also a huge discussion about disruptive delays in gameplay, to the technology's tendency to scrutinise marginal offside decisions, often resulting in goals being disallowed for tiny infractions not easily discernible in real-time.
We must not forget that VAR is fairly new to the game, and many will wish for the ‘old’ ways back but that also had a lot of flaws. VAR when used correctly is a brilliant addition to the game, there is too much money involved just to leave it up to chance.
VAR is used very well in other sports one example being rugby. In rugby there is one major difference, the viewers can hear the audio of what is being said on the pitch. This gives the fans more transparency in what is being said, let’s them know how a decision has been made. A large majority of fans would love to see this implemented into the game; least they know there is no agenda against their team.
As we have mentioned, VAR is always under the microscope, it almost an impossible task. However, this time it feels different, with Spurs v Liverpool people are starting to feel disgruntled and have a real lack of confidence by the men in charge.
VAR as a whole has been used relatively well, the technology 99% of the time works perfectly. But decisions are still subjective and transparency in how they make the decisions is not good enough.
VAR is an excellent idea that has not been executed to a standard the the Premier League requires.
More training for VAR staff is a must if they want to progress the technology to benefit the game. Clear communication is needed!
A lot of talking has been to have a ex player representative in the technology room so they can provide a fair viewpoint. A lot of referees a very distant to the game and have never played it themselves.
Provide the viewers and spectators step by step analysis into why a decision has been made; live audio will provide much more transparency.
Let us know your views on VAR and what can be changed in the comments.