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Video Assistance Referee (VAR) – Boon Or Bane?

Stuart Atwell
Picture Source: Twitter

When the concept of a video assistant referee (VAR) in professional football was proposed a couple years ago it drew mixed reactions from players, coaches and analysts everywhere. The advantages of this introduction were clear as it would eliminate human error and avoid obvious refereeing mistakes. The chief concerns of many however were the element of time wastage caused by stoppage of play while a decision was made. There was also a fear voiced by romantics about the loss of a human touch to the game.

Last season was the first time VAR was unanimously introduced into all of Europe’s top leagues and what a rollercoaster it’s been. One of VAR’s largest advantage is it’s ability to eliminate all doubt when it comes to offside calls. VAR has been more or less efficient in that aspect but besides that everything has been complete chaos.

VAR has the power to check all goals, penalty calls and all possible red cards with a view to overturn the decision made by the on-field referee incase of a clear and obvious error. This is where the problem arises. The ambiguity in the definition of the phrase “clear and obvious” has led to a host of largely controversial and very often admittedly wrong decisions by the VAR officials.

The contrasting influence was summed up perfectly in the Crystal Palace vs Everton match in Gameweek 3. Everton were awarded a penalty after a VAR review for a handball by Joel Ward. The call was very harsh but it was the correct call by the definition of the law. Later in the game an identical incident occurred at the other end of the pitch.

This time Dominic Calvert-Lewin was the player in question. The ball appeared to have clearly struck his arm inside the box but the penalty was not given. This contrast and lack of consistency in decision making by the VAR is what has made many people question its effectiveness. Everton were lucky to escape the penalty in that case but they could very well be on the other end of the sword someday soon.

VAR could be a very useful concept in football if used correctly but the lack of proper management and ambiguity in its job definition has often made it the villain in the most controversial moments since season. Consequently, a lot of managers and players have turned against the system as a whole.

VAR looks as if it’s here to stay but it has to be modified. If the tide can be turned and a few crucial changes can be made in the foundations of the VAR setup, it could help remove ambiguity in football officiation without affecting the beauty of the game. However, in spite of everything, there will always be people who prefer the touch of “no review” refereeing. The question with VAR will always remain – “Boon or Bane?”.

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