Ah, VAR. No three letters have sparked more heated debates, divided opinions, or caused frenzied social media meltdowns in the football world in recent years, we take a look at the Video Assistant Referee technology.Embed from Getty Images
For the uninitiated, VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee. A technology introduced to the beautiful game with the noble intention of making it fairer. Whether VAR has achieved that aim or simply thrown a wrench in the works is still up for discussion, and boy, do football fans and pundits have a lot to say about it.
VAR: Video Assistant Referee
Let’s remind you that a VAR isn’t just a computer. It’s essentially a team of officials who watch the game in real-time using multiple camera angles and video technology to review certain decisions made by the on-field referee. These decisions can range from goals and penalties to red cards and offside decisions.
That sounds straightforward enough, right? Well, if only things were that simple. When VAR was first introduced in competitive matches in the MLS in 2017. Paraded as a game-changer that would minimize human error and ensure fair play in the beautiful game. However, since its debut, VAR has been anything but uncontroversial.
There have been numerous instances where VAR has seemingly got it wrong, leading to outrage from fans and players alike. Remember that time when a player was ruled offside because of his armpit? Yes, his armpit! Or that match where a penalty was awarded for a handball that seemed, well, not very handball-y?
From that controversial Rodri handball in the penalty box against Everton last season to the decision to rule Garnacho’s winner offside in Manchester United’s Premier League crunch with Arsenal on September 3, 2023, so many VAR decisions have been called into question.
And then there’s the issue of consistency. VAR, supposed to level the playing field; however, there have been countless times when similar incidents have led to different decisions by Video Assistant Referees in different matches. This lack of consistency has led to accusations of bias and claims that VAR is ruining the beautiful game.
VAR has often intervened to rectify glaring mistakes made by the on-field referee, resulting in more just outcomes. There have been occasions when a goal was rightfully overturned due to an offside call or when a red card was appropriately revoked because a player was incorrectly charged with foul play.Embed from Getty Images
The answer varies depending on who you ask. Supporters argue that VAR is a positive development for football. Others think it’s causing more problems than it’s solving. However, although it’s evident that VAR has its flaws, it’s equally obvious that it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, whether we approve of it or not.
is there a way to make Video Assistant Referee better?
Can we find a way to use VAR that ensures fair play while minimizing controversy? Is the Video Assistant Referee technology the problem or the humans who are operating it? These are questions that football’s governing bodies must ask themselves as they continue to fine-tune the system.
After all, supporters will invariably find something to complain about, especially when the decisions are not in their favour.