The UEFA Champions League 2018 between Chelsea and Barcelona infuriated the Chelsea fans while a series of controversial decisions were made by the referee leading Barcelona to the finals. While football is known to have promoted unity amongst nations, the game has also been plagued with wrong or controversial decisions. One of the best and most revolutionizing examples of technology in the field of sports can be seen through the launch of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). VAR was introduced in the 2019-20 season in the Premier league to assist football matches and the referees to ensure speedy and accurate decisions by minimizing human errors.
Therefore, it is needless to say that VAR, especially theoretically has been designed to facilitate football matches and review the decisions made by the referee. However, in reality, the VAR faces a number of criticisms that often tend to outweigh the pros of the same.
And it disrupts the game in countless ways. Even if you bet on football with Karamba, you must have seen odds dancing countless times because of how the VAR reviews work. And this whole unpredictability makes people question if the whole thing is actually making the game better or further complicating something that was not so complex before.
Let us first have a look at its utility before going on to assess its weaknesses.
Role of VAR
There are a number of equipment’s which are used by athletes in their everyday lives while they practice or play professionally. Some of these items help in maintaining physical wellbeing while some help in running a smooth game. VAR is one of the latter kinds and the following are its reviewing features-
● Goals- The VAR helps in ensuring an accurate goal and assists the referee in cases where the referee is confused. For instance, if the ball crosses the line and the goal is not to be awarded, the VAR sends signals so that the match is interrupted instead of awarding a wrong goal.
● Penalty- Penalties could be awarded when players are impeded in the box or the ball hits their hand in an unnatural position. Sometimes the ref could get a wrong impression of a situation. That is where VAR kicks in to help.
● Red cards- Red cards are generally awarded to players for misconduct on the ground. However, there might be considerable confusion about whether a player should be awarded the same or not and the VAR assists in this. Thus, it prevents wrongly suspending a player along with helping in suspending a player who has not maintained the rules of the tournament.
VAR controversies in the tournaments
Though it is true that VAR has been designed to provide considerable accuracy to the tournaments and ensure correct decisions, whether VAR is helping the Premier League is quite a controversial and debatable topic. Ever since its launch in 2019, VAR’s response in the Premier League has been quite a controversial one. For example, last season some goals of Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa were made null and void by VAR whereas they were considered to be real and accurate goals. It was also seen that the VAR interrupted the game even where the footballer’s body slightly touched the ball in a natural position. However, most of the times, the players were found to be in their natural positions and also their touch did not affect the momentum of the ball. Thus, the interruption was unnecessary.
Furthermore, VAR has often caused unnecessary pause to the game which led to delays and disruptions in the game’s flow. As a result, the footballers often lost their spirit in the game which in turn affected the team considerably. For instance, in the Merseyside Derby, Liverpool was awarded a goal which was finally negated by VAR pointing out that Mane’s assist to Henderson was offside. However, the referee as well as both the teams believed Liverpool had scored a proper goal.
Another controversial decision of the VAR can be found in the UEFA Super Cup held between Liverpool and Chelsea where the referee awarded a penalty as Tammy Abraham was dodged on the ground by Liverpool’s goalkeeper Adrian. However, the decision was reviewed by VAR, and owing to the lack of cameras on the field; there was considerable difficulty in assessing the specific angle of the incidence which in turn led to many controversies. The final decision was however changed by VAR taking the match to penalties, marking a clear win for Liverpool.
One of the greatest advantages of VAR was that the referees and the players got a second chance for the judgment which increased the accuracy of the game. However, this has often been neutrally balanced by its major disadvantage of interrupting the momentum of the game. As a result, though designed to help in maintaining accuracy in games, VAR has been far from a boon in its practical applications.