VAR, or Video Assistant Referee, has been one of the most controversial topics in recent memory for soccer. So many fans are complaining about the technology and in some cases they are overreacting, but in other cases it is rightfully so. Lets take a look at VAR as a whole first and give some statistics on how it’s performing so far.
In the Bundesliga, there have been 291 incidents reviewed by VAR as of December 16th 2017. Thirty seven of those were correctly overturned.
In Serie A, there have been 1,078 incidents reviewed by VAR as of January 26th 2018. Sixty of those were correctly overturned.
In the MLS, from August 5th through October 22nd, 46 incidents were reviewed and 33 of those were correctly overturned.
These numbers are proof that the system is working. The real issue that we are seeing with VAR is that it’s taking a long time to have these reviewed. I think a reasonable amount of time to review a play is 60-90 seconds. This is not an unreasonable number considering that you can see an instant replay from multiple angles while watching a game on TV within seconds of it happening.
Think back many years ago to when the NFL first started using instant replay to review referee calls. I still remember the outrage from fans and how it was going to ruin the game. Fast forward to today and people cannot imagine watching the NFL without it. This is going to be even harder for soccer fans to adjust to. Soccer is a very old game, and people in general, do not welcome change. Just a few short years ago I can remember soccer fans going rabid about the vanishing spray used on the field to keep players honest during free kicks.
The reality is that in today’s game, four referees are just not enough to be able to correctly manage a game of 22 players on a large field. This may have worked decades ago, but the game is so much faster and more physical now. You can watch any EPL game and find missed calls. Some are game changing and others are not, so why not use the technology that we have to make the game as honest as possible. Living in the United States, there is no shortage of soccer haters and the number one reason for their hatred is always because of “all the diving”. Look, we all know diving happens in every sport, but it’s pretty much become an art form in soccer. VAR can help eliminate that.
The final issue with VAR that I will speak of here, is the communication with the fans in the stands. When you’re watching a match on TV, you have a set of commentators to keep you in the loop of what is happening with any given review. The fans in the stands do not have that luxury. Stadiums must do a better job of keeping it’s attendees in the loop of what is going on. There have been numerous times where the game will come to a complete stop, or a goal will get overturned minutes after it’s been posted to the scoreboard and there is zero communication to the fans. Replays should be shown on the screen, but only AFTER the play has been reviewed and a decision has been made. We do not want the fans cheers and/or boos to have any effect on a referee’s decision.
As usual, the English Premier League will be the last to adopt this new technology. They will need 14 teams to vote yes to move this through and as of March 2018, they aren’t even close. This coming World Cup in June will be using VAR and it is critical that they get this right so that other leagues around the world can see the benefits. Like anything technology related though, the bugs will need to get worked out.