For the first time in history, video assistant referees (VAR) is being used at the World Cup in Russia. The VAR is a ‘football assistant referee’ who reviews decisions made by the referee with the use of video footage and a headset for communication.
The standard for overturning the referee’s original decision is that there has been a “clear error”.
VAR has become one of the major talking points in the ongoing World Cup.
Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has slammed the use of VAR during Portugal’s draw with Iran and suggested that the use of it has become an ‘over-reaction’.
Has VAR been a force for good or has it caused too much confusion?
It’s got more right than it’s got wrong but surely that’s not the point. Isn’t VAR meant to eliminate incorrect decisions entirely? We’ve seen that it’s impossible. And let’s not forget, it’s still subject to human error because it’s operated by humans. It’s a mess, it is creating as many problems as it solves and it is ruining my enjoyment of the tournament.
It’s gone better than expected with a couple of caveats. Referees have to be encouraged that if they are advised to look at VAR, they are still welcome to stick to their original decision.
I think it’s been fine. Overall though we’re getting more good decisions, offside goals are being ruled out, dives spotted, penalties and goal rightly awarded when they might have been ruled out.
VAR itself that is causing problems but the way it is being implemented by officials. In the game bwtween Portugal and Iran, given that VAR was used to award Ronaldo a spot-kick, it was disappointing that nobody noticed the Iran goalkeeper moved two yards from his line as he subsequently saved it. The thing with VAR is that it remains at the mercy of human error. It is humans, after all, who have to interpret the pictures.
It is also maddening when a goal moment is interrupted as we wait for a verdict. That rather kills the mood. But it is generally getting the decisions right – not including Iran’s penalty on Monday night – so it is fit for its purpose.
VAR at the World Cup has not been a disaster. In certain games, it has worked capably and smoothly. But what is the aim of it? I presumed the aim was to reduce pressure on officials and take away some controversy from decisions. On both those levels, it is failing.
When goals have gone in at this World Cup, more often than not I’ve held my breath, just in case VAR decides there was something untoward. Even for the ones that look legitimate, I find myself waiting for the television cameras to show the referee signalling that the goal was good. That uncertainty takes away the essence of celebration.