Is VAR working? And if not, what should be done about it?
I would love to hear what you think about this. Please let me know in the "Comments" section below.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has caused lots of controversy in the Women's World Cup during the two weeks of group play. And this only increased during yesterday's England v Cameroon Round of 16 game.
There has been controversy over offside calls, goalkeepers moving off their line when facing a penalty kick, and judgement calls for fouls and other offences.
Let's break this down into those three types of calls.
I haven't seen every game, but of the games I have watched, the offside calls looked at with VAR have all been correct in my opinion. There are two issues that I think are causing the controversy with VAR offside calls.
Some of them have been incredibly close calls and the team/fans on the wrong end of these calls have sometimes felt hard done by. But there should be no controversy with this. If a player is offside even by just a hair, then they are offside and as frustrating as it is, the team/fans just need to accept it and get over it. There is no controversy with these calls, just teams/fans venting frustration if they are on the wrong end of these calls.
The NFL and pro tennis, both have the same incredibly close calls made by video replay that decide their points and games, yet no one seems to make a big fuss when it happens. It's just accepted as being correct.
Now there has been at least one instance where there has been some question about what exactly is offside. After the VAR review showed the attacking player's feet behind the offside line but their arm/shoulder was on the line and offside was given. Well this is not a VAR issue, it's an issue of offside law needing to be clarified or the VAR correctly interpreting the offside law.
Goalkeeper Moving Off the Line on Penalty Kicks
Again, every one of these calls that I have seen have been correct as far as I can see. I can understand it feeling incredibly harsh after saving the penalty kick as Scotland did in their game against Argentina, and then Argentina scoring on the retake. But as the law stands, VAR overturning the save from the first penalty kick was correct. What magnified this decision was that it was late in the game and the decision sent Argentina into the last 16 and at the same time eliminated Scotland from the last 16.
The letter of the law was also followed when France took a penalty against Nigeria and missed, hitting it wide of the post. But VAR determined that the Nigerian goalkeeper moved off the line so the kick was taken again with France scoring this time. This extremely harsh but it is the law.
My opinion is, that if the player misses the penalty kick by hitting it wide or over the crossbar, then then the goalkeeper shouldn't be punished if they happen to encroach in front of their line. But that would need a change of the law.
Actually, it might be prudent to find some way of changing the law about the goalkeeper moving off the line too, as this seems to be a momentum movement for the goalkeeper in making the save, and although I'm no goalkeeper, it would seem that having to focus on keeping at least one foot on the goal line during a PK, would take the focus away from actually making the save.
So, just like the VAR offside calls, the GK moving off the line on PK's have all been correct. It's just that the GK moving off the line calls, don't feel right. In fact, they feel incredibly wrong. And I don't think I'm on my own with this feeling.
Even FIFA are figuring out that something needs changing. In the middle of this World Cup, FIFA have announced they will no longer caution the GK for moving off the line for a PK with a yellow card. So there is hope they will figure out that they need to go further and give the GK more room to make their PK saves.
I don't know where to start with this one. I have just finished watching the England v Cameroon game and in my opinion, the VAR got three judgement calls wrong. It might be because I'm English, but I think I'm looking at this from a rational viewpoint. Also, these are judgement calls. So, many people could watch the same video replays from the same angles and come up with different opinions. I understand that and I know we can't get all to agree on any judgement call.
Call One - Early in the game, A Cameroon player elbowed an England player. The VAR caught this and the ref gave the player a yellow card. In my opinion, if someone purposely elbows another player in the face, it is a red card offense. So a yellow card seems strange to me.
Call Two - late in the game, a Cameroon player had a late challenge in the penalty area and kicked the England player on the foot or stood on her foot. The England player still managed to get her pass off a fraction before the late challenge. The VAR gave no foul for this and I thought it was a clear foul.
Call Three - At the end of the game, a Cameroon player had a late challenge on an England player right near the coaches area. It seemed to be very late with some nasty intent. After VAR, the ref gave a yellow card. Again, I thought this was a red card offense.
So what can be done about judgement calls?
One option is to not have judgement calls done by VAR. Why? Well, if there is still going to be VAR decisions on judgement calls questioned, then we might as well leave it for the ref make the decisions, avoid delays in the game and we will question them just as we always have.
Or we could take a cue from the NFL. No system seems to be perfect. But the NFL policy on video replays is that they stick with referee's decision unless the video replay gives clear evidence to overturn it. So it's not a case of looking at the video replays and trying to come up with a decision. The decision has already been made by the referee, and only clear evidence on the video replays can change this.
While I'm on the subject of the NFL, I think FIFA would do well to copy the NFL and should also do a video review of every game once it's finished. The purpose of this is to catch any offenses that the ref doesn't catch. Diving for instance, or a yellow card that should have been a red card, etc. Then players/teams can be fined/penalized for these offenses and they would be careful about trying to get away with things in games knowing it will be reviewed afterwards.
Technology is supposed to help and improve the game, but how it is used is critical.
I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you think?
And while you are here check out my post on VAR and how diving is killing the game.
President WORLD CLASS COACHING