Why Football Fans Are Not Excited By The Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR) In The 2018 World Cup Games

Football is one of the most controversial games ever played in the world. The controversial decisions by the referees and management teams are the lifeblood of football games.  These decisions whose talking points are usually extensively discussed on social media and in entertainment establishments have the power to cause so much Joy and torment among Football fans worldwide. That’s why the concept of Virtual assistant referee was introduced.

How VAR works

The VAR operates on a three step process of incident, review/advice, and decision and across the four jurisdictions of football considered as game changing by Fifa. The game changing calls open for review include;

The referee has to wait for the review of an incident before making a decision

  • Penalty decisions
  • Goals and violations during the buildup
  • Red card decisions
  • Mistaken identity in the case of a red or yellow card

The stipulations for use of VAR are very clear and concise but the application and the use have always led to confusion and controversy. Implementation also varies as some systems are stadium based with a pitch side monitor for use by the referee who wants to review his decision.

Despite the optimism by many people about adopting the VAR technology, the trial of VAR tech in various football leagues and competition has not been a successful as initially promised.  When the product was launched in March 2017, football fans were promised a seamless process which would only take a matter of seconds for a video official to review a referee’s decision and have no impact on the game

Waiting for a review of a referees decision.

 “Minimum interference, maximum benefit” were the words used by David Elleray, the technical director of international Football Association Board (IFAB) when he introduced VAR.  That is what the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was meant to bring to the table. He said that if it worked well on trial basis, it would be used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

And yet, a year later  during the world cup 2018 Opener with Tunisia and England in Volgograd the questions surrounding the use of VAR in Football, more so the world cup have reemerged with some people being skeptical  about the use of  VAR Technology in the World cup matches.

It all started on Monday evening when England’s Captain, Harry Kane was twice denied what looked like obvious penalties. Another sour moment for football fans in the  2018 World Cup related  to VAR was shortly after Tunisia was awarded a penalty for what looked like a soft collision between Manchester city’s Kyle Walker and Ben Yussef a decision upheld by the VAR. The disappointment among the fans and players as they booed and jeered at the referee for the decision made were very obvious.

Another incident where the VAR seemed to have been acting ‘Wonky’ was shortly after halftime when Kane again was involved in another grappling incident that was ignored by the referee much to the dismay of the England fan base. Many people wondered why a penalty was denied since a penalty for such an incident had already been given to Croatia in the game against Nigeria on Saturdays matches.

After the match, many people took to social media to express their displeasure at the VAR technology. Many football fans seem to feel that the concept of VAR is only good in theory. They feel that the electrified world cup games are very high profile and that some referees can easily be influenced by players to keep using VAR. This could potentially disrupt the momentum of the game, which in turn would reduce the excitement of the game or lead to unexpected outcomes for the two teams involved.

They also feel uneasy with the technology because of the time factor. Every second counts in a football match. So many questions have been raised and not just about the mechanics of VAR but also about the time used for reviewing VAR and the issues of accountability.  They agree that the idea of the technology is a good one but until its implementation issues are solved, Right now it is an affront to their favorite sport and the culture that comes with it.

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