The Video Assistant Referee is the latest football innovation to be introduced by world governing body Fifa. It involves two referees sitting in front of a television monitor to review decisions made by the head referee through headset communication.
There are four kinds of decisions that can be reviewed; 1) Goals, 2) Penalty decisions, 3) Red card decisions and 4) Mistaken identity in awarding a red card or yellow card.
This system is already been used at the ongoing Fifa Confederations cup in Russia and with the view of using it at the World Cup finals next year, it’s making headlines and dividing opinion among football lovers over its effectiveness.
The dilemma however is; is this good for football or it’s just something that’ll kill the pace of the game and make the game a snoozefest?
Since referees are humans, they are subject to clear error, which means during the flow of the game they can make potential decisions that might be wrong, which is corrected by the VAR.
During this Confederations Cup finals alone, the VAR system has forced a change in referee’s decision seven times in 12 games.
The plus is that the VAR allows for transparency and fair play which is what Fifa is all about. It makes the game free of controversial issues and ensures everyone is beyond a doubt of the referee’s decision.
The VAR also takes the pressure off the referees, since they now have video replay technology that can either prove their decision is correct or wrong which can force a change.
It also means more games aren’t decided on refereeing errors. For instance in the Chile vs. Cameroon game, Eduardo Vargas scored a goal just before halftime which by eye test was onside but the video review showed the player was offside. This is thus welcome so teams won’t feel slighted anymore.
With every good thing however, comes its side effects.
In as much as I applaud the video replay technology, I am vehemently against it. Football thrives on chaos and controversy. The best footballing moments have come when the game was open and free flowing but with video replay, we might have a slow and dragged out game.
The referees will use the VAR as a crotch. Most times they are supposed to be sure before making a call. That’s what they are trained and payed for after all, but now refs know they get a do-over if they get it wrong, so they might become lax and the game will suffer for it.
Such was seen in the game between Mexico and New Zealand in which Gambian referee Bakary Gassama spent so much time consulting the VAR in the dying minutes over a melee that ensued between both teams. Four added minutes became nine due to Gassama’s inability to use his own discretion.
The fact that players or managers can’t call for a review makes it unreasonable. If a player makes the review sign, he’s punished by an automatic yellow card, if it’s a team official, they’re penalized with a sending off. This doesn’t make any sense since the people who are directly involved can’t even contest their cases. This kind of gives referees too much power which isn’t good for the sport.
Video technology is used in both the United States’ NBA and NFL and most times players call for reviews especially in close games. That’s the way it should be in football.
How many reviews are allowed per game is another issue and how many times can the referees use this technology in game? This stretches the game which nobody wants to watch past the two hour mark.
With all this, the decision still rests with Fifa law making body IFAB. Even Fifa head referee Massimo Busacca says the VAR must be reformed and improved before the World Cup finals.
I love my football the way it is and don’t see the need for the video replay system. If VAR is the next best thing in football, I might become medieval.
Is the VAR system a good or bad idea for football? Kindly leave your comments below.
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