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VAR: Game changer or controversial?

In the past, the game of Football had an array of baffling refereeing decisions that affected the outcomes of games and defined various football clubs’ seasons. These refereeing mistakes led to an outcry for a change in refereeing to cut out the blunders from the beautiful game of Football. In VAR lay the solution to sort out the mess. However, its invention did not fast-track his application in Football. The VAR had its tests in several competitions before its full implementation in every FIFA sanctioned competition.

Despite its usage for almost four years now, questions still hang around the revolutionary system and its effectiveness in decision making on the field of play. The VAR has divided opinions between lots of football fans who are indecisive in their feelings towards it. It seems the invention is instead causing more harm than good. Critics speculate that the VAR is also disrupting the game and ruining the intensity and atmosphere of Football games. The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is in the spotlight again after a host of controversial decisions were made in a couple of football games. It is now evident that there is a long way to go before it produces the efficiency and accuracy that football fans have been calling for a while now.

It is essential to look at how the VAR works in the first place and examine its advantages and disadvantages in Football since its implementation.

Decisions VAR Reviews?

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is used to review only four decisions in football games. VAR reviews the outcome of a goal scored, penalty or no penalty, direct red card, or mistaken identity. These decisions are checked for the incident deemed as a “clear and obvious error.”

How Does The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) Work?

Using the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is not as complicated as speculated. With VAR, there is the presence of a referee in the video operation room (VOR watching through a monitor far away from the pitch. On the pitch, there is usually the presence of a pitchside monitor for the main referee officiating the game to review incidents in the game if the VAR’s decision is inconclusive. In simple terms, the VAR allows the referee to have a second look and apply the football rules and regulations on the pitch. The review is also termed as the On-field Review (OFR). However, the laws and its interpretation vary in terms of various incidents that are reviewable by the VAR.

Concerning goal decisions, the VAR emphasizes on incidents in the build-up of a goal. These incidents are fouls and offside. With fouls, the VAR system checks for potential infringement on an opposing player that is seen or unseen by the main referee on the pitch.

The offside decision aspect of the VAR also takes a look at the lines and margins of specific parts of a player’s body and its influence on the goal. All parts of the body, except for the hand, are deemed as influential in a goal and interfering in play. The VAR also has the power to review and overturn a referee’s no goal decision.

With red cards, the VAR takes a look at the severity of a foul, classified as dangerous and reckless. These fouls range from reckless tackles to intentional handballs.

Mistaken identity is uncommon in Football, though, because it rarely happens in Football. However, the VAR checks to make sure the right player is sent off.

The Criticisms of the VAR and its Controversies

There are many aspects in terms of the VAR controversies ranging from the delay in decision-making to the interpretation of the refereeing laws provided by the various referee bodies in world football. The VAR is designed to review and offer quick solutions to mistakes of the on-pitch referee. However, it is rather infuriating and frustrating football fans and its stakeholders who are calling for its immediate removal. However, the controversies stem from the laws and the referees.

Most of the various competitions in Football follow the laws from the football Lawmakers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB). However, there are a few exceptions. Some competitions in most parts of Europe utilize the laws set by their respective country’s refereeing boards. It is the case in the English Premier League, which has been the hub for the majority of the VAR controversies. The English Premier League has its laws and interpretations concerning fouls and offside. However, these laws do not sit well with English football fans who find them confusing. The other issue is the reluctance of the on-pitch referee to use the pitchside monitors to review the various incidents themselves. Also, the fans do not have access to watch the replays of events on the giant screens in the stadium.

The delays in decision-making have also been an issue of concern as it creates tension and “kills” the tempo of football matches.

The Way Forward For VAR

For VAR to succeed and gain acceptance by everyone, a review of the laws is needed. The referees must also be re-educated on the use of VAR to fully adapt to its demand for effective removal of game-defining mistakes or errors in Football.


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