GOAL…..no, wait a minute, the referee is now reviewing it for a possible off-side. A few minutes more, the crowd are getting anxious and ……oh no, the goal is overturned for off-side – the players toenail was over the line!
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is causing much debate, confusion and controversy within the Premier League yesterday, today and tomorrow.
So, where did it all begin and how are we going to resolve the issues that are currently being debated such as disagreements over penalty incidents and the time taken for a review to be completed which ultimately disrupts the flow of the game.
The system, named Arbitrage (Refereeing 2.0) was created as part of a project carried out by the KNVB (Royal Dutch Football Asociation) in the 2013-2014 football season to support refereeing decisions and to ensure “the flow and fairness of the game, with high quality referring at all matches”.
Initially intended to review all incidents, upon the realisation that this would be unrealistic, the KNVB opted for ‘minimum interference and maximum benefit’ and changed the reviews to ‘match-changing situations’.
The technology included the use of a Hawk-Eye system, or in other words, goal line technology, which produces camera footage replay images to determine if the ball had crossed the line.
And how it works, well not in the interest of fair play and minimal disruption some may say however, the referee receives and relates instruction through an ear-piece worn during the game and they will raise their hand to indicate a decision is being reviewed. The VAR system reviews the video footage and advises the referee whom will then draw a rectangle to replicate a TV screen to change the original decision.
One major talking point at present relates to the reviews that have overturned goals for offside based upon a matter of inches. “A close offside decision is the most common reason for VAR being consulted after a goal has been scored”.
By taking into context the fact that a referee will not take into consideration the perception of being clear and obvious, he or she may just be able to justify a decision based on a ‘matter of inches’?
Another sticking point is the detrimental effect reviews and overturned goals are having on the fans, the atmosphere within a stadium and the joy of the ‘goal celebration’. Many believe that VAR is ruining football and that the spirit of the game is being put in doubt.
Gary Neville, the former Manchester United player and now Sky Sports pundit, spoke about the problems “with time limits and bizarre criticism of minimal off-sides”. This followed a survey by YouGov which revealed only one in 25 fans believed VAR has worked well.
Perhaps one of the problems is that fans and pundits alike will always strive to pick out the most controversial things and not look at the bigger picture. Whatever happens and whichever route VAR takes, one thought may just stick – football may never be the same again!
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