Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be making his debut at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.(REUTERS)
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be making his debut at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.(REUTERS)

Will Football win VAR of the worlds at World Cup in Russia

No change in football has been subjected to the scrutiny that Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has been ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
By Sayan Ghosh | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 24, 2018 11:13 AM IST

When it comes to football, changes are rarely met with a lot of enthusiasm among the fans or the players. From the controversial ‘golden goal’ which was used in the 1998 and 2002 editions of the FIFA World Cup to the triple punishment law change which ensures a red card is not shown for a foul by the last man if there is a genuine attempt to play the ball, no new rule has been immune from criticism.

However, few innovations have caused a bigger stir among the football community than the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) which will make its World Cup debut in 2018. In theory, the VAR is the perfect system to help the referees in taking crucial decisions during the game. But, a lack of understanding of the technology and the long-drawn process (an average of 2.5 minute per decision) has made it quite unpopular among a major number of fans who believe that the momentum of the game is hampered by the constant stoppages.

“Football is a creative sport. It’s a sport that we love, a passionate sport that people love to watch around the world. We will be pushing that sport into a very rigid structure with VAR and I am worried that maybe we are going to kill the game,” Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino said when asked about his views on the technology.

Power comes with a price

This argument is quite common among fans, but it is also important to look at the huge difference that VAR can make when it comes to protecting the integrity of the sport. Blaming the referees has been a common practice among fans, players and managers alike when the decision does not go their way. But, with the help of this technology, the on-field officials finally have the power to review their decisions and make sure that incidents like Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ never happens again on the grandest stage of football.

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“I am sure that VAR will have the same positive impact through enhancing the integrity and honesty in our game. We need to realise, however, that although it will never be perfect, it will – for sure – avoid a lot of controversy and will preserve many footballing destinies which can be ruined by something we are all susceptible to – human error, “ FIFA Deputy Secretary General Zvonimir Boban said in an interview.

While the VAR has given a new lease of power to the referees, it has also opened them up to new controversies. They can now be accused of bias if they decide not to consult the VAR and that can create a dilemma in the minds of the officials during tense situations.

During the A-League Grand Final in Australia this year, Melbourne Victory’s title-winning goal came from an offside position against the Newcastle Jets. The tournament had decided to implement VAR, but the video referee did not intervene and the goal was awarded despite there being three players in obvious offside positions in the build-up. It caused a huge uproar among the fans and the system was put under review after tournament officials blamed it on a technical glitch.

Too soon to implement?

It is important to understand that VAR is a relatively new technology and the 2016 FIFA Confederations Cup was the first time that he was used on a big stage. Some prominent leagues did experiment last season, but the trials were far from being flawless. The VAR is still in its early stages and the officials are still figuring out the nuances of the system. As a result, it is still too soon to give a clear judgement on the success of VAR and the FIFA World Cup will certainly be the real acid test for the technology.

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