As the 2018 World Cup fast approaches, the debate surrounding VAR technology is heating up. Video Assistant Referee, or VAR for short, is the controversial innovation set to transform the world of football.
As with almost every technological advancement, VAR is being met with excitement and skepticism in equal measures. Football fans and professionals alike are divided on what effect VAR will have on their beloved game.
What is VAR and how does it work?
Video Assistant Referee is a support system for the main, on-field referee. The game is recorded from multiple angles and monitored closely by a video assistant referee (VAR). The on-field referee and the VAR can communicate via headset to review or correct match decisions. There are four vital decision-making processes which VARs are intended to assist in:
The VAR helps referees determine whether a violation occurred in the lead up to a goal which would disallow it.
In the case of penalty kicks, the VARs help to ensure that no wrong decisions are made.
Again, the role here is to ensure a correct decision when sending or not sending off a player.
In situations where the main referee can’t be sure which player to discipline, VARs can ensure the correct player is sanctioned.
Pros and cons of the VAR
The idea behind the technology is to make football fairer, providing 100% accuracy without disrupting the flow of the game. Despite a justifiable motivation, there are many arguments for and against their use.
The aim of VARs is to make football a fairer game firstly by reducing the risk of human error in potentially game-changing moments. Secondly, eliminating the scourge of football that is ‘diving’. Plus, it also protects the referee from refute and the rage of players and fans.
The main issue with VARs is the time it takes to review footage. The promise of “no disruption” hasn’t always been the case. In the Confederations Cup final in St Petersburg for example, the referee’s consultation with the VAR caused a three minute match delay.
One could also say that taking out the possibility of error ruins football debate which, for many, is part of the fun of football. What else will people discuss over a pint in the pub?
Where does FIFA stand?
FIFA has been testing the use of VARs in a number of high-level matches, including the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 and the aforementioned FIFA Confederations Cup 2017. Despite obvious teething problems, FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, defended the technology adding “Video Assistant Refereeing is the future of modern football.”
Should VARs be used?
While many take the view that video assistant referees will bring the focus back to the game, others fear that it will spoil the entertainment. One thing is certain, the world of football is changing but whether that is for better or worse, remains to be seen.