EPL Premier League

Should VAR be given the red card or is it working well?

Since 2018, VAR has been met with varying degrees of acceptance, reluctance, disappointment or despair.

Since its introduction by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in 2018, the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the higher levels of professional football has been met with varying degrees of acceptance, reluctance, disappointment or despair across the game globally.

The original intention was, of course, to assist match referees in their decision making but only in the event of a ‘clear and obvious error’ or a ‘serious missed incident’. These events or incidents only include Goal/no goal; Penalty/no penalty; Direct red card (not a second yellow card or caution); and Mistaken Identity (if a
referee cautions or sends off the wrong player).

It is important to note that VAR decisions are made by appropriately qualified match officials who are watching the game via live broadcast in an isolated room in a central location far from the match venue. This removes any emotional context from any decision by VAR that the actual match referee might be experiencing from either or both sets of supporters in the actual stadium.

The actual definition of ‘clear and obvious error’ might be a major point for discussion simply because many of the decisions that are scrutinised often seem much less clear and certainly not obvious, despite the use of video examination which is often slowed to less than match speed without giving obvious conclusions to aid the referee in his initial verdict. Often, VAR recommendations are made to the match official that are unobvious to the naked eye when viewing at ground level in the heat of the contest.

For all those invested in a particular game, the sheer elation of a goal being scored, and subsequent celebrations, can often be muted as the decision is mooted by VAR and the match referee. More importantly, games (and associated league points) have been won or lost by decisions that have later been adjudged, after great scrutiny, to be blatantly incorrect.

Given the seemingly current disappointment with VAR from many aspects of the game’s shareholders (e.g. players, coaches, spectators), there appears to be three options available to IFAB with regards to the future of VAR:

‘Play On’ – IFAB continue with VAR in its existing format; it may not be perfect, but it gets more decisions right than not and more than assists a referee to make more accurate decisions than would occur without VAR intervention.

‘Yellow Card’ – IFAB proceed with caution and with considered amendments to the current VAR model. It could perhaps allow spectators, players and technical staff the opportunity to hear the discussions between the match referee and the remote VAR (as in Rugby Union) to potentially better understand the mechanics behind each decision referred to or taken up by VAR.

Perhaps the VAR model could also be enhanced with the inclusion of a former professional player on the VAR panel who has appropriate experience of playing at the respective level of the game at the highest level of domestic or international football depending upon the type of game being observed. The inclusion of a former player may add an additional dimension to the decision-making process by giving a player’s perspective of any given situation outwith the laws of the game (e.g. the timing of a challenge, malicious intent, intrinsic or extrinsic factors affecting the player’s actions).

‘Red Card’ – IFAB negate the use of VAR completely and return to the historical methods of trusting the match officials, managed by the referee, to come to their decisions without the need or assistance of an external influence.

These options are no doubt discussed on a regular basis by IFAB as they seek the most efficient and accurate methods by which to effectively manage and officiate each game involving VAR. In so doing, they hold the key to making the Beautiful Game an even more enjoyable experience.

What would be your preferred course of action regarding the future of VAR: Play on; Yellow card; or Red card?

This key issue affecting football, and many more like it, could be taken to the millions of spectators and fans who enjoy the game to seek their personal opinions. Directors Box, the exciting new football go-to application, offers fans the opportunity to create their own polls and petitions relating to their specific club or country, or more generic football matters, to gather and measure supporter opinion.

In addition, Directors Box offers a one-stop tool for all football fans by facilitating immediate club-specific news, game updates, competitions and much more!