HOW WILL VAR AFFECT EUROPEAN FOOTBALL?
IS IT FOR THE GOOD OR BAD OF THE SPORT?
WHAT IS VAR?
The Video Assisted Referee (VAR) does what is says on the tin, it uses multiple cameras positioned around the pitch of the sport in question and analyses the game for use by the human referee if a decision is in doubt. The aim of VAR is to eliminate human error from sport. With football being such a high grossing industry now days, those who have the most to lose really don’t want multi million pound decisions left to the mercy of a human referee, who may or may not catch the hand ball, head butt or offside. The revenue lost by say a football club missing out on promotion is ridiculous and can seriously affect clubs in today’s volatile business driven industry. One of the biggest football decisions from current years has been Ireland’s exit to France in the 2010 World Cup qualifier after Henry’s (unseen) handball effectively knocking Ireland out of the world Cup losing them major revenue and the hopes and dreams of a nation.
IS VAR GOOD OR BAD FOR FOOTBALL?
Since such decisions as the France vs Ireland game, the subject of VAR has been long in circulation, at the forefront of football debates from the post-match football interviews held all over the globe to the more important debates held in the many bars and pubs worldwide. As an English football supporter we were yet to experience the outcome of what a VAR regulated match would play like until the recent World Cup.
As far as the European VAR football trial goes the EPL is currently lagging behind as the VAR system was trialed across a number of football leagues last season. The VAR system was put in to play across the Serie A, Bundesliga and the French Ligue 1 football leagues last year (2017/2018 season) and seeing VAR rolled out across La Liga this year really put the spot light on the EPL. The trial of VAR in this summer’s World Cup to assess penalty calls, red cards and goals really brought the system to a world-wide audience allowing football supporters from every corner of the globe to make their own mind up. So although things are moving in the right direction with over 60 EPL games live trialing VAR this 2018/2019 season, after an earlier vote went against rolling it out across all games this year. We will have to wait and see what the 2019/2020 season has in store for VAR.
I believe the World Cup trial although it didn’t put to bed the argument of “what is better for football” I think it helped us clearly separate the pros and cons of using the VAR system during live football. The major issue felt by football fans was the stoppage to game play, causing momentum to dissipate in important parts of the game. I felt although there were stoppages it wasn’t outrageous and games seemed to carry on largely unaffected. Remember the VAR system has just been implemented into football but has been running for some time in the world of Rugby, another high paced game with little to no effect on game speed and fluency. On a whole decisions made by VAR in the 2018 world cup were 99% correct but here lies the problem. Football rules are not all black and white, yes VAR can easily determine an offside or goal line decision but when it comes to red cards or hand balls there are pages of grey area in the football referee’s handbook.
I think it is important to remember that VAR is here for assistance and not to take the place of a referee, so hopefully we can find the perfect middle ground. Although we will inevitably lose out on hours of banter in the pub on “was it a goal, wasn’t it a goal” debates, we will be able to sleep at night knowing yes we were beat fair and square and never will the English have their hearts broken by a poor refereeing decision. I think the best thing to take from this is at least the powers that be in football are accepting problems with in the game and trying to make it better. Let’s see what the future of VAR will bring.