Can VAR Be Relied Upon in Football Just Yet?
November 20th, 2019 by David Martin
Technology is supposed to make every facet of life easier, right? The idea that simple tasks can be performed with the click of a button is marvellous and also a tad scary at times. Whether it’s ordering your shopping with a tap on a tablet or swiping a card to use the train – life has become encompassed by the brilliance of modern-day technology.
Therefore, it’s no surprise to see that technology has become ingrained into the world of sport. It has made fantastic improvements in the decision-making of tennis and cricket umpires, correcting would-be mistakes that could have had huge consequences on the outcome of matches.
The movement has been regarded as a huge success, and it was only a matter of time before football would become the latest sport to utilise television replays and graphic technology. Football was the last bastion, refusing to budge from its old traditions.
However, the world governing FIFA got its way at last and VAR has worked its way into the rules and regulations of the sport. The Premier League became one of the last major European leagues to adopt the system this season after a trial period in the FA Cup.
To say it has been met with criticism is an understatement. There have been a number of high-profile errors made with the system, although the finger of blame shouldn’t be entirely focused on the technology – rather how it has been deployed by the Premier League and the Football Association.
Everton have been on the receiving end of a poor number of decisions, including a contentious penalty that was overturned by the system in their defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion. Arsenal saw a late winner in their contest against Crystal Palace chalked off by a VAR review, which proved to be a fractional decision to say the least.
It could have long-ranging consequences on Arsenal’s season and their hopes of securing a Champions League place, being backed at 9/4 in the Premier League betting odds to finish in the top four of the table. The Gunners are just one of the clubs that have a gripe about the VAR system and, although the technology is impressive, it still has a long way to go before becoming a reliable tool.
The use of camera lines on still-screen camera shots for offside decisions have been debated. Whether a toe or a shoulder is a centimetre past the line have been one of the many issues, meaning it’s near impossible to make a decisive call.
However, Roberto Firmino’s disallowed goal for Liverpool against Aston Villa proved that the system is flawed – making a decision that is marginal into the hands of flawed technology. Issues of that nature should always be left with the call on the field. VAR was designed to be a supporting tool where clear and overwhelming evidence was required to overturn decisions.
This has not been the case as VAR officials have made too many contentious calls. The technology utilised is state-of-the-art, but it cannot be called upon to provide complete accuracy at the moment. There may be a time when automated decisions can eradicate roles for officials on the pitch but, until there are improvements in its accuracy and implementation, should the decisions remain in the hands of the human officials for the near future?