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More controversy surrounding VAR

A question that has been asked many, many times – who would want to be a referee, particularly in soccer?

The recent introduction on a trial basis of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system was supposed to be a way to ease the pressure on referees and their assistants and bring clarity to so-called controversial decisions that the match officials make.

Instead it appears to be more of a controversy in itself instead of a way to clear up and clarify debatable decisions.

This is where a referee sits at the side of the pitch and views, or reviews, incidents that are controversial (which decisions are not?) and makes a considered and educated decision. He then informs the referee and so we move on.

It’s a bit like what’s already in operation in rugby, tennis and cricket. Why Fifa took so long to adopt this system is anyone’s guess. The wheels of change move very slowly in Zurich.

The latest incident was in the Confederation Cup Group B game between Cameroon and Chile in Moscow on Sunday, 18 June. Just when the Chilean team thought they’d scored, after being kept at bay by the heroics of Cameroon’s keeper Ondoa, the goal was ruled out for offside.

The referee gave it, the assistant saw nothing wrong with it, but the VAR said it was offside and so the goal was nullified.

Naturally the Cameroonians were happy but the Chileans were very annoyed.

They felt the goal was legitimate and many agreed. The ones who did not agree, of course, were the pundits in various television studios who had access to the latest technology to help them in their deliberation. They got it right after reviewing it several times.

Ah, if only we could all be so expert on seeing the situation the first time around.

The VAR did its work and according to the referees who were manning the “slow-mo” cameras (there are several at different angles), it was decided that Vargas of Chile was just slightly offside.

The general rule of thumb in these cases is that to be offside an attacking player has to be closer to his opponent’s goal than two of the defending team while interfering with play, interfering with an opposing player, or seeking to gain an advantage by being in that position.

We used to say if you’re level – you’re offside. Not anymore. The ruling now is – if you’re level, you’re onside.

There’s a little bit of hypocrisy here in that if the goal had been awarded the Chileans would have been happy. If the shoe, or boot, was on the other foot and the goal was against them it would be a different story. Double standards indeed.

Goes to show that you can’t please all the people all the time.

As far as the commentators are concerned, they are a diverse and funny bunch when they want to be. I know they have a story to write but they at least should try and be objective when making comments instead of stirring up the pot.

There is an old saying – never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Suffice to say that this VAR system seems to be here to stay and I personally think it’s a good idea. It may need some more tweaking to get it fine-tuned, but it will yield results and correct decisions will be made.

There are those who think it will spoil the game and take some of the excitement away. That’s fine when decisions go their way. When they don’t, it’s a different story.

Anything that will help the referees and their assistants arrive at a correct decision is, in my opinion, good for the game.

Happy whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney
Twitter: @dr_errol

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