Last week, Kelechi Iheanacho was denied his second goal of the game in an FA Cup third-round replay against Fleetwood, up until Jonathan Moss puts his hand to his ear and speaks to the Video Assistant Referee. Sixty-seconds later, Moss signalled the first ever goal to be rewarded from VAR. This received mixed reviews from football fans across the country, Fleetwood manager Uwe Rösler stating that he “didn’t like it”, whilst Leicester manager, Claude Peul welcomed video refereeing into the game. This new system has split everybody’s opinion, including mine too. Instead of rambling on twitter like I usually do, I thought I’d write an article on the situation, it’s advantages, it’s problems and what will its future be in the game.
How does the VAR work?
Video Assistant Referee is used in four situations, goals, penalties, mistaken identity and straight red cards. There are two different ways an issue can go to the referee, the first is direct communication from the VAR to the referee on the field – like we saw in the Leicester game. The second option is the VAR deciding itself, which hasn’t happened in any of the trial matches so far. The VAR alerts the on-field referee to review an event that’s just taken place and can even make the decision themselves.
Why I like TMO…
I love Rugby, I play the game myself and I’ve started to watch it on television a lot more. I’ve been to Twickenham were TMO (Television Match Official) has been used, and the uncertainty and replays on the big screen genuinely build a lot of tension. When you whttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBQvYurfR2watch the game on TV, you always hear what the referee is saying throughout the game including what is discussed between the on-field referee and the video referee. They are always clear and decisive in the situations I’ve watched, whilst in football, even though there is no microphone, you can tell there’s confusion between the referees.
TMO has been used since 2001, and has been involved in making some huge decisions in rugby throughout that time. Sonny Bill Williams is one of the best rugby players on the planet and was involved in a huge incident in the second test of the Lions Tour vs the All Blacks. Williams received a red card after TMO reviewed the clash back in slow-motion (when you watch it at full speed, it’s more 50/50 than you think – this can apply to penalty decisions in football).
The Television Match Official has grown into a big part of the game of rugby and overall has made the professional game a lot safer and cleaner as a result. One of the big cases for VAR to never be seen again is, “Football is nothing without it’s controversies.” In my opinion, this statement is false in every way, shape or form. What makes football is what the players are putting onto the pitch. The reason I’ve stopped watching Everton for a period isn’t because of the decisions are going against us… it’s because the football is diabolical. Football doesn’t need controversies to stay relevant!
There are several reasons why the VAR isn’t working at this moment in time. The big talking point is timing. Here is an example of the problem in Genoa’s match vs Juventus. Cuadrado pulls the ball back into the penalty area. As the ball flicks up, Mandzukic tries to shoot but the ball deflects of Lazovic’s arm. Not only does both the referee and linesman signal a corner, but it takes the official a full two minutes to decide to run over to side-line 40 yards back.
Both commentators are completely puzzled by what is going on, the referee sprints back and awards a penalty, three minutes after the incident happens. Paulo Dybala stepped up and scored for the final part of the half. The discussion between both officials should’ve been much, much quicker. It must’ve been totally bizarre being in the crowd and just watching the players stand around not knowing what’s going on themselves. There are plenty of other incidents that have happened liked this where it has taken far too long for officials to make their mind up.
Despite this, according to the BBC, the VAR introduction to Italian football has appeared to be more positive. Italian football expert, James Horncastle, stated “They said that of 1,078 VAR decisions made in the first half of the season, 60 corrections were made by the VAR with 49 of those being the right decision. So only 11 mistakes were made using VAR, which equates to 1%.”
Serie A has still seen it’s issues however, with referee Daniel Doveri sending off Torino manager Sinisa Mihajlovic for his protests during their Coppa Italia defeat to Juventus. Mihajlovic was saved the next day, whilst Doveri was suspended for two games due to the incident.
Another issue is the standard of refereeing, especially in English football. This can be more of a solution than an issue, but I cannot see the likes of Mike Dean or Martin Atkinson give a fair and correct decision even with the VAR guiding them. The standard of officiating in Rugby is levels above Football, of course you can still get bias refs in every sport, but how many times have you seen the headlines about poor refereeing in rugby? In football, it literally is every week. I don’t watch Match of the Day as much as I used too, but I can guarantee they talk about a “poor” decision once throughout the programme.
VAR isn’t the only part of football that needs to be improved for it to fully work, there are plenty of other cogs in the clockwork that need fixing first. For me, one thing that won’t change will be the patience of football fans as a whole. Every football fan wants the game to flow, we all get increasingly annoyed when fouls are given left, right and centre. I don’t think we will maintain the same level of patience as fans in other sport maintain, and maybe that’s the hurdle VAR will never cross to become a complete success.
I know that this article may seem a bit bias towards pro-VAR, but I do see pros & cons in both. If the FA wants to make VAR a permanent part of its game, then it must consider improving other parts of the game to make it work perfectly, including the fans experience in the ground and what they see on the big screen. Video officiating can clean the game up from its cheating, diving and dodgy decisions… but it still has a very long way to go before being a success.