Is VAR a Good or a Bad Thing?
By: Fabrizio Chiari
Throughout the history of soccer, and sports in general, we have seen how difficult of a job
referees have had on the pitch. According to fans and viewers, this issue has aggravated in the
last few years’ and the reason behind, in my view, is because of how much television images
have improved. Nowadays, watching a game behind the TV, with all the analyses, reports, and
replays, we are able to have a much more detailed appreciation than three (or five) referees
have on the field. Certainly, regarding this problem, leagues, confederations, and federations
around the world have been taking action to attack the issue. In many people’s eyes, some of
the changes should have not been done or perhaps should have been done slightly different. I
am indeed, one of the many fans that argue that the latest change, the addition of the Video
Assistant Referee (VAR), should have been added but quite differently.
Multiple years ago, the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) took in consideration
adding new referees onto the pitch. Historically, soccer has had a central referee in addition to
two linemen, one on each side. Lately, UEFA decided to add in the European competitions, two
more assistants, one next to each of the goals. These two only stand there, and make decisions
regarding situations occurring near them. Usually, they are in charge of calling if the ball is in or
out, penalty kicks, or infractions that are close to them. Certainly, in my opinion, this helps and
it is a good addition but not everyone took it as well as I did. Many people still argue that soccer
is a game of errors from players and referees are part of the game, and it they make mistakes, it
is again, part of the beautiful game of football/soccer.
The next move in the world of football/soccer was that addition of the VAR. This came up not
too long ago but some federations and confederations still not make this change. Adding this
new feature clearly involves more costs to each game, which is not easy or simple for many;
however, some of the most important leagues in the world did add this feature. One of the
leagues is the Serie A, Italian first division league. They have been one of the first at
implementing this new form of referring. In Italy they can review pretty much every situation.
These scenarios are: penalty kicks, fouls, handballs, offside, goals, cards, and any other time the
referee feels he needs to take a second look to make a better decision. Certainly, this has been
used and the negative consequences are not only the time wasted but also the officials still
getting the call wrong. Therefore, fans would argue why would you add this new feature if the
referee would still not get it correctly.
I believe this whole thing of VAR thing is a great addition, but to me, it has to be used only for
objective decisions. This means that the referee cannot go back and check if it was a hand ball
or a foul because again, because that is certainly subjective. In the NFL, for instance, on the
other hand, you do not see officials reviewing if it was a pass interference or in the NBA if it was
a foul. They review if the foot was touching the line, who touched the ball last, or scenarios
with objective outcomes; they could be either right or wrong. I believe soccer should learn from
these sports in this topic. The ball crossing the line or not, decision if it was a yellow or red card,
or if it was on or offside would be the only type of calls I would let referees review. Anything
else, leave it to a different sport or different industry, trust me.