It wasn’t meant to be like this. The argument for giving referees video replays for major decisions was that it would reduce controversy in football matches.
But, after the uproar which greeted Sunday’s Confederations Cup final – and specifically the decision not to send off Chile defender Gonzalo Jara, it only seems to have created more.
Jara’s elbow on Germany forward Timo Werner looked like a straight red card offence. Yet the referee, Serbian Milorad Mazic, asked for guidance from the video assistant referee (VAR) and, following some conferring, showed only a yellow card.
It raised questions about the whole system: if the referee gets it wrong, how can VAR be said to be an improvement?
It’s a can of worms. The VAR is supposed to make football more black and white, but there are always going to be shades of grey.
Consistency is what players and managers crave, but it is never going to be perfect and the VAR – or how much to use it – is just another decision that referees will be inconsistent about.
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I am not totally convinced that it will ever be used well enough to justify the reasons for introducing it. But, having only seen it in operation in a handful of trial tournaments, the jury has to be out for the time being.
I think people have unfairly rushed to judgement over the VAR based on a small sample of incidents, which can always give you a false impression.
The reasons for testing it in the first place were sound, so it deserves to be seen over a longer period of time.
I’d give it a year. I expect that it will be used at next summer’s World Cup despite the high-profile teething problems, so I’d like to see it implemented in domestic competitions such as the Premier League this season.
That would allow referees more practice with it, because it can’t help that they have to dip in and out of using it depending on the competition.
It would also give players and, in particular, managers time to get used to it. I believe that incorporating the VAR will only work if there is an acceptance that the referee’s word is final.
Dissent has never been a bigger problem than it is now. There has to be greater emphasis on managers setting an example to their players and accepting decisions.
Ultimately, though, the success or failure of the VAR experiment will rest on the quality of the officiating. The system needs more exposure, and in turn it deserves more patience and tolerance.
But referees must get better. The VAR ought to help them, so there is an onus on them to be more effective. Because unless 99 per cent of the decisions are right, people will continue to question whether it’s adding anything.