Poor decisions on the pitch have led to some of the most memorable moments in football history.
The England team have been impacted by these bad calls more than most, Diego Maradona’s ‘hand of God’ and Frank Lampard’s goal that wasn’t to name but two.
In fact, Lampard’s disallowed goal became the catalyst for the steps football has taken towards the use of technology.
It was that game against Germany in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa which led to trials of goal-line technology and its eventual introduction.
It’s difficult to find a fault with goal-line technology, with it being based on a black and white decision.
Is the ball over the line?
VAR, however, couldn’t be more different.
It has split opinions since the moment it was brought into the game, with the technology aiding decisions over the greyer areas.
So with trials of the technology coming to an end and the recent decision to adopt VAR in this year’s World Cup in Russia, it feels a suitable time to review the system and what it means for football.
In total, 927 competitive matches have used the technology.
An average VAR check takes 20 seconds to complete.
The average decision accuracy before VAR was 93% but this has increased to 99% with it.
While the statistics seem to endorse the system it would be fair to say that opinion is split among the games managers, players and enforcers.
Following Tottenham’s recent FA Cup quarter-final fixture with Swansea Mauricio Pochettino described the use of VAR as “a nightmare, it’s a nightmare. I am so sorry for the people that try to sell that system. I am so sorry.
“Today Sonny wasn’t offside. No, in the end, I prefer the assistant referee make a mistake, not the technology and waiting three or four minutes on the pitch.”
On the positives, retired referee Dermot Gallagher said;
“VAR is getting better every week. We’ve had a number of games now and people are starting to see it bed in.
“Also, a referee’s authority is not undermined because they can now turn to players and say they are absolutely correct.”
Former West Ham midfielder Reo Coker has named some areas he feels could be improved.
One review per half per team:
“This would speed things up and keep the flow of the game going. You don’t want unnecessary stops and breaks.”
Broadcast VAR conversations:
“This is very important. Football is about the fans and they need to stay in tune and understand what’s going on.”
“Another time limit. You don’t want to affect fans with stoppages or teams’ performances.”
Reviews on stadium screens:
“It’s important fans know exactly what is being reviewed.”
It is probably fair to say that VAR in some way or form is here to stay and technology is effectively used in many other sports.
In fact, many have argued that the drama of reviews has added to the excitement of those sports and is liked by most fans, cricket and tennis being strong examples of this.
In reality, though, what the trials have taught us and the fast-approaching World Cup will undoubtedly show us is that VAR in football is still ultimately down to personal opinion and one person’s reading of a situation.
How many times have you been to a match and believed 100% that your team were cheated only to realise you got it wrong when watching it on television?
What VAR ultimately achieves is to allow decisions to be made with the aid of replays and slow motion, what we have learned already is that doesn’t guarantee the right decisions.