Mixed response for VAR

The big screen displays a VAR review for a possible penalty during a FIFA World Cup 2018 match in Yekaterinburg.   | Photo Credit: Matthias Hangst

Technology, an integral part of a few other sports, has made its way to football’s biggest event as well. The introduction of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) has elicited mixed response.

The National Football League and the National Basketball League in the USA use technology to review scoring and many other aspects of the game. Tennis, too, has seen its use while cricket was perhaps the first sport to embrace it with the advent of the Third Umpire in 1992.

Roberto Rosetti, FIFA’s VAR refereeing project leader, reiterates the referee’s omnipresent role in the entire process.

“The referee is at the centre of the decision-making process. The VAR doesn’t decide. It can only recommend an on-field review,” he said. “The referee has to take the final decision. This is the difference between interpretation, subjective decisions and factual decisions. The referee will be at the centre of all interpretations.”

This key decision perhaps has left it to scrutiny, with VAR decisions in Russia creating more confusion.

While VAR has helped sides like Spain, France with the correct interpretation, Serbia’s Aleksandar Metrovic (against Switzerland) can feel aggrieved for missing out on a penalty. Cristiano Ronaldo (against Morocco) can also complain about the same, while Iran (against Portugal), Argentina (against Croatia) and Spain (against Morocco) have been hard pressed by some of the wrong calls.

“During a competition it’s not possible to have everything 100 percent correct and it’s not easy for referees to listen to some outside advice especially after they have been the boss on the field for 10 or 20 years of their career. For whatever reason perhaps there has not been a right interpretation in some cases,” Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of FIFA’s Referees Committee, said.

While VAR has generally been successful and hardly obstructed the flow of play — every review has consumed an average of 80 seconds — there’s still ambiguity about the interpretation of it, with different referees looking at it in different ways, much like their actual elucidation of the game.

But like goal-line technology, which has come to stay and is now accepted as the last word on whether a goal stands, VAR will require experience, fine-tuning and self-correction before it stops being part of a debate.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 1:14:02 AM |

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