Opinion: Fix VAR in football now or scrap it

By Oluwatamiwa Babalola

Video Assistant Referee has just one goal – end controversies in football by helping match officials make better decisions on the pitch. But has the million-dollar technology been able to achieve its goal? That depends on who is answering the question, (or more like whoever is benefiting from VAR decision), but really, nothing has changed.  

Photo by Maxim Hopman for Unsplash.com

Refereeing must be one of the most criticised jobs in the world due to an array of needless errors – ranging from offsides, to wrong penalty decisions, and controversial goals. The list goes on but one example that readily shows the flaws of the referee was the ‘hand of God goal’ scored by legendary Diego Maradona during the 1986 FIFA World Cup.  

The referee and his two assistants probably spotted the incident but due to human error, they couldn’t do anything other than allow the goal to stand. Since then, similar issues have persisted for decades and every attempt to solve the problems has failed.  

These ill-calls forced FIFA to introduce VAR into the game, hoping the technology would help solve the volume of errors referees make on matchdays. But instead, the equipment has done nothing but increase dispute around the game.  

Besides the negative talking points after every match day, it has also increased the normal playing time by an average of at least 60 seconds per game. VAR breaks the game’s momentum and creates anxiety, especially in the last moments of a match.  

At times, referees take too long to correct an issue, and this means that celebrations must be put on hold, especially for winning goals, and the players do not hug each other. Instead, they look at the referee when the call is made – mechanising the game and turning the players into robots. 

VAR is looking like a waste of hard-earned money

Four years after it began full operation in football across the globe, VAR is looking like a waste of hard-earned money having failed to bring solution to the problem it was created to solve.  

The most recent episode occurred during Chelsea’s Carabao Cup final defeat to Liverpool at Wembley Stadium as Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku’s goal was marginally ruled out as offside, and the Blues fans went crazy, lamenting over the inconsistences of the VAR. This happened a day after Everton manager Frank Lampard slammed VAR for denying the Toffees a penalty in their 1-0 defeat to Manchester City during their Premier League crunch clash at the Goodison Park in February. 

In 2018, the technology made its debut at the World Cup in Russia and FIFA claimed it made 99.3 per cent success rate with only four correct red cards issued all through the tournament while the women’s tournament one year later recorded 98 per cent improvement in decision making.  

VAR is not the first technology introduced to football in recent times, but its cons outweigh its pros. It has demonstrated that it cannot successfully discharge the duties it was created to carry out, so, we need to perfect the technology or scrap it outright.

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