Is VAR Improving Football?
The use of technology in football is a contentious topic, with the divide between those who believe it is a good thing and a bad thing for the sport vastly different. Those who oppose the advancement in the game largely put this down to the fact that while it may get decisions correct, atmospheres in the stadiums have taken a dip because of it. These fans also argue that human error is a part of the game, and they don’t wish to change it.
Of course, these opinions are always subject to change depending on how the technology is finally implemented within the game. The argument of human error is a strange standpoint, and is always subject to change should a decision go against their team. Meanwhile, the atmosphere is something that certain technologies in their infant stage are still exploring.
Where is VAR being used?
Three letters that became synonymous with the FIFA World Cup in 2018, with the VAR even getting its own chant since it has been used in the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup this season. The Premier League have announced that the technology will be used in the top tier of England next season for the first time, and this is the form of technology that fans are either for or against.
It is guaranteed that the referees get a more significant portion of the decisions correct with the help of VAR, but due to the sport not being as black or white as other sports that use technology, there is still a debate over decisions which were meant to be avoided with the introduction of the video assistant referee.
It is widely considered that this can be ironed out with fans and referees clearly told on what is a penalty and what isn’t. There was massive confusion on two instances in this season’s Champions League when Manchester United and Manchester City both experienced different experiences with VAR.
VAR #1: PSG vs Manchester United
The United one was the more contentious of the two since it’s a decision that remains up for debate, and allowed United to progress in a tie that only the best betting sites could see them progressing from. Diogo Dalot hit a strike from outside the area which hit a flailing arm of a PSG defender. The referee initially gave a corner before being told to check the pitch-side monitor. Upon reflection a spot-kick was given; much to the amazement of everyone in attendance and watching on the television.
It was reported after the game that if the ball hits an arm while it is making their body a bigger target, then penalties will be given. If this was known by players, experts and fans beforehand then that could have quickly cleared up any misunderstanding about the decision.
This is the main decision that has been questioned by the media but make no mistake about it; there are many examples of VAR being helpful to officials.
VAR #2: Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur
The main one in which the right decision was made came during the frantic UEFA Champions League tie between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium in April.
Manchester City thought they had scored a goal after Sergio Aguero latched onto a loose pass from Christian Eriksen, before squaring the ball to Raheem Sterling to find the net. The goal was initially given, and City were effectively into the semi-finals of the competition. However, after a lengthy review the referee ruled out the goal, as the deflection off Bernardo Silva from Eriksen’s pass found Aguero in an offside position.
While it wasn’t a popular decision, it was the correct one and highlighted the importance of having it in the sport. Without it, the goal would have been given, and City would have qualified with a goal that Spurs felt was illegal.
This one example proves that the use of technology in the sport should never be in question, after all, why would fans want their team to be punished by wrong decisions?