MUCH ADO ABOUT VAR

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If you think that human beings are fickle and generally cannot be satisfied, then you have not met a football fan – or more specifically, a Real Madrid fan.

Ask him/her what s/he hates most about the game, you mostly hear something like “I do not like the players trying to con the ref into giving away cheap penalties”, or “The referee made a terrible decision that cost my team points”. Etcetera, etcetera.

One very memorable one was the Frank Lampard goal that was not given that could have made the game 2-2 at the World Cup in 2010.

The game ended 4-1 to Germany.

Also, (my personal favourite) when Pedro Mendes thought he had scored a beautiful goal against Manchester United from the halfway line, only for Roy Carroll to somehow drag the ball out when it had almost hit the net in the back post.

At the 89th minute!

The match ended 0-0.

This was a Premier League match in 2005.

We all have that one game in which we feel that better officiating would have saved our team, or even gotten them a trophy.

Enter VAR.

Video Assistant Referee.

A little introduction here.

VAR can be used in four “match-changing” situations – goals and offences leading up to a goal, penalty/no penalty decisions, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity by the referee.

The team consists of one VAR official, three VAR support personnel, four replay operators and two additional offside cameras.

I was not intially sold on having the input of a machine to decide possible key moments in a football game, the human factor just made football more real, which in turn made errors more likely compared to the assistance of a video review. This obviously meant more controversy as well.

Premier League clubs have already voted against using the technology, instead agreeing to continue to test it during the upcoming season.

The Italian League, however, have started using the technology.

The German League as well, but not without controversy.

In the Bundesliga, on the 16th of April, 2018, a penalty was awarded after players had already left the pitch for half-time in Mainz’s Bundesliga win over relegation rivals Freiburg.

The French and Spanish Leagues also intend to introduce VAR come the start of this season.

The VAR has so far been tested in certain Leagues, but with relative success and controversy but was given its biggest test at the just concluded World Cup Tournament in Russia.

At a point in the tournament, statistics showed that referees had gotten about 93% of their decisions correctly, with VAR, it rose to 99%.

Staggering.

Obviously, on the biggest stage, a nascent technological addition to the traditional game would never be complete without some controversy.

The biggest one was obviously for the penalty against Ivan Perisic and Croatia against France on the final day of the tournament when he was adjudged to have handled the ball following a Griezmann corner and a Blaise Matuidi miss.

The decision was also made at a crucial point in the game

Till date, the award of that penalty kick still divides opinion in some quarters.

At the end of the day, we know that VAR decisions will generate some level of controversy every now and then, but be rest assured that VAR is not going anywhere, at least not any time soon.

by Motunrayo Abiodun