by Nathan King
According to FIFA statistics, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) contributed to 93.9 of refereeing decisions at this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. Yet, with introductions into the top leagues in countries such as Italy, Australia and Turkey, the question still remains: Are referees in England ready for its scheduled introduction nest season?
Whenever VAR and the English Premier League is mentioned, it always comes back to the cycle of fans and pundits alike, bemoaning the fact that the most funded and watched league in the world only has VAR in one of smallest cup competitions in the EFL Cup.
This weekend was another full of controversies in the world of VAR. In Italy, Fiorentina were awarded a first-half penalty in which referee Luca Banti refused to use VAR, despite protest from AS Roma players. Television replays showed that Argentine forward Giovanni Simeone (Son of Atletico Madrid manager Diego) took a dive, and had the referee gone to VAR (which he could of) then Simeone would have been booked for simulation, rather than Jordan Veretout converting from the spot.
Meanwhile, in Turkey, VAR was used after the final whistle during the Intercontinental Derby after a 30-man mass brawl broke out between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray players. Officials used VAR to correctly determine the instigators and offenders of the brawl, where three men were correctly sent-off.
In April 2017, Australia became the first country in the world to have VAR integrated into a top-flight league match, but two years on, just what is the opinions from those in Australia who have witnessed it first hand? Matt Harvey, an Australian native from a Manchester United supporters group spoke to UWS News:
“We’ve just started our second season with it in Australia. There have been three rounds (matchdays) so far and I can remember around four or five controversial decisions already”.
The first superstition around VAR is always how it affects the game negatively, but maybe it’s down to first impressions? Matt continued:
“There’s definitely some positives to VAR and I was always in the camp of ‘it will improve the game’. But after the last few months, I’ve completely turned and hope it is scrapped altogether”.
For the English Premier League, in particular, there’s a possibility that whether VAR is used or not could be situational and specific to each referee. We know that there is a stigma around certain referees and whether they become egotistical in certain situations, something that Garth Crooks spoke heavily about in relation to referee Mike Dean in 2015.
Each referee in the English Premier League certainly divides opinions on fans, no matter whether they give your team the right or wrong decisions. But are the referees in England ready for VAR next season? Here’s what a Manchester United fans group thinks:
Again, the opinion seems to be that certain referees will use it correctly, as we also saw in Russia last summer. However, the experience could also be a hindrance, as it was in Italy when Luca Banti was so sure that his instinct was right and refused to even acknowledge that he had a video assistant at his disposal.
But, it’s fair to say that the subject of VAR will also be divisive, from fans to managers to ex-players. Ready or not refined? Have your say below