This year’s World Cup in Russia has seen the implementation of VAR – that’s Video Assistant Referee. The system takes video footage from over 30 different cameras and angles around the football pitch during the match, catching every moment.
Despite the referee’s on-pitch position, they aren’t always in full view of every incident. Therefore, traditionally, the referee could only make decisions based on their viewpoint at the time of the incident (with a bit of input from the linesmen). However, with VAR referees are now able to contact nearby officials to provide confirmation based on accurate video footage whilst the referee remains on-field.
This has caused much controversy with players, managers and fans alike. Referees can blow the whistle, make a decision and then confirm their decision with the officials monitoring the VAR. This means they can change their decision within a matter of minutes (called a VAR reversal) – which of course will impact at least one team in a negative way.
Many critics of VAR feel that it is ruining the ‘art’ of football – that is, ruining the on-field experience for the players and the fans. However, other sports have embraced technological input for its accuracy and fairness in the game. Cricket uses UDRS, tennis uses Hawk-Eye and NFL has their replay review to assist with on-field decisions. It seems that it may be some time before football fans and players fully accept the integration of this new technology.
Should we embrace technology into our sports? Or should we stay with tradition and leave the decisions up to the human professionals?