World Cup 2018: VAR the Future of Football?
VAR continues to divide opinion, as football fans while away the summer evenings in pub gardens across the land arguing the pros and cons of this most modern of sporting technologies, one thing is for sure, by the time 2018’s World Cup Champions are christened, it’ll be hard to imagine the game without it. Unlike the world of cricket and to a certain extent rugby, VAR technology is still down to personal interpretation and with its use dependant on “clear and obvious error”, well it’ll be a cold day in hell before officials agree unanimously on the nuances of the game, and let’s not even get started on football fans sharing universal opinion.
So what are the fundamentals? There’s not actually quite as much happening with regard to VAR as many have been led to believe, or indeed assumed. Penalties are an area of significance and perhaps the most controversial aspect of video assistant technology. If the officials viewing the game from afar, judge that there has been a clear and obvious error, they intervene. Such as with the Mohammed Salah incident versus Russia, the referee correctly spotted a foul on the Egyptian King, however, the incident took place inside the area and rather than the freekick that had been awarded, VAR correctly overturned the decision to a penalty. No qualms there, however when Cristiano Ronaldo theatrically hit the deck against Morocco and gestured for intervention, none was forthcoming, it appeared the right decision, but replays indicated he had in fact been fouled.
When Antoine Griezman was felled in the area against Australia, the referee initially waved play on, it looked like the right decision even on reflection, however with the use of the pitchside screen the referee overturned his decision, in what many pundits felt was a prime example of the failings of VAR. In fact, when you add the grappling and nonsense in the penalty area that accompanies most set pieces – think Kane versus Tunisia – it seems a waste that the technology is there to stop such antics, however, will remain reliant on the referee’s discretion. This is probably the most significant part of VAR intervention and ironic or not, with more penalties than ever awarded, there’s still big room for improvement, however little can be done about the official in question’s opinion. Not an exact science, what will be will be.
Offsides, on the other hand, are an exact science, and with the sensible looking decision to allow play to continue, this area should certainly be one of the success stories of the tournament. However back in the land of the grey, red cards will continue to cause consternation, yellow cards cannot be reviewed and an example of where this protocol breaks down was in the case of goalscoring hero Ante Rebic in the Croatia versus Argentina game. A terrible looking tackle, even at first glance by Rebic on Eduardo Salvio should have seen him sent packing, however so quick was the referee to brandish a yellow, VAR was incapacitated and unable to influence proceedings. Needs some serious consideration moving forward.
What could have been…
If you’re still not sure and debate rages like it does her at The MALESTROM HQ maybe consider this,
“Clear and obvious error” – Mr Bennaceur. Yes the Tunisian referee who oversaw England’s quarter-final against Argentina could have done with a pair of glasses let alone VAR, but it’s safe to say one of the most devastating moments in English football history would have been banished from the memory banks, however goal or no goal England would still have had to see off a rampant Argentina before defeating Belgium then West Germany to lift the trophy.
Yes, England’s greatest sporting moment could itself have been different if for the help of a Video Assistant Referee. Geoff Hurst’s iconic strike in extra time in the final, came after a last-minute equaliser by the Germans had suggested a momentum shift. VAR would have ruled out England’s third and then who knows, perish the thought.
Sorry, no help here then…