VAR technology has already had a monumental impact on football at the highest level, including the World Cup Final. PDP Technical Advisor, Dan Wright examines the impact of VAR, the potential risks and some of the subsequent trends emerging in the beautiful game.
Cover Image: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
Since its inception football has had many innovations that have shaped the way we play and view the modern game. These changes have come in various forms. There have been large fundamental changes such as the introduction of offsides, the use of substitutes or removing the option to pass back to the goalkeeper. There have also been subtle tweaks of the existing laws and, more recently, the utilisation of technology such as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). All with the ultimate aim of improving the beautiful game. A recent success story has been the introduction of goal line technology, helping the referee make the right shout and making moments like Frank Lampard’s ghost goal against Germany in 2010, a thing of the past.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used at the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 2018. After 8 years’ worth of trials and learning from the MLS, A League, Bundesliga and Eredivise it was deemed by FIFA that the technology was ready and fit for use. In fact, this tournament became the first competition to use VAR in full: at all matches and in all venues. Interestingly, in April 2018 the English Premier League clubs voted against using VAR in the following season’s competition, requesting more stringent testing through the FA and Carabao Cup.
The concept of VAR seems a logical progression. Most would argue we want the correct decision to be made and for the referee to get the best information possible to get the big decisions correct. When sitting down to watch this year’s World Cup it didn’t take long for VAR to hit the headlines in a group game between Australia and France. French forward Griezmann was through on goal when he went down under a challenge from Joshua Risdon. The referee on the field, Andres Cunha, decided there was no foul as the ball ran through to Australia goalkeeper Maty Ryan. However, the VAR in this instance advised the referee to take another look, which he did before awarding a penalty. Although the contact was slight, the technology appeared to help the official get the right decision. All was well in the world of VAR and it was a welcome addition to the party.
Then the inconsistencies started to creep in. VAR was explained to players, coaches and fans as a tool that would be used to help the referee when a “clear and obvious error” had been made. On the same day, Argentina’s Christian Pavon went down in the box under a challenge from Iceland’s Birkir Saevarsson. Despite the appeal there was no review and no penalty… but there was more contact than in the Griezmann incident just hours earlier. Confusion became more frequent. Harry Kane was wrestled to the floor numerous times against Tunisia, Ronaldo was fortunate to avoid a red card against Iran and Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus seemed to be brought down by Kompany in the quarter finals.
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