Hanging Judge: I’m more doubtful about the VAR system than ever before

Dr Errol Sweeney
Dr Errol Sweeney

I don’t mean to harp on about this video assistant referee (VAR) system, but the more I look at it, the more doubtful I’m becoming about whether it’s a runner.

For anything to work, it has to have the support and the backing of all concerned. The referees can only apply and use the system that is given to them, but if there isn’t the will of the administrators, or soccer politicians, as I call them, it’s dead in the water.

There has to be total commitment from all parties involved and, if that’s not forthcoming, it won’t work.

In last week’s column, I asked if VAR would stamp out the cheating and diving that has plagued our game for some time now and whether the players will come to accept it as clarification of a wrongdoing.

Read: Hanging Judge: Will VAR stamp out cheating?

All concerned seem to have accepted goal-line technology without too much fuss and bother, so why not the VAR?

Well, no sooner had I written last week’s column than an incident happened in a South American Cup semifinal that brought back the “doubting Thomas” in me.

The match middleman had to be protected by riot police after he awarded a late penalty, assisted by the VAR, to Club Atlético River Plate in their semifinal against Grêmio Foot-Ball Porto Alegrense to reach the Copa Libertadores final.

The referee, Andrés Cunha from Uruguay, pointed to the spot after viewing video footage of the incident. He was 100% correct.

That didn’t stop the Grêmio players from surrounding the beleaguered official, who appeared to be pushed and forced backwards by several players during the ensuing protests. One even had his hands round the referee’s face. That is not on.

The scenes were, to say the least, downright disgraceful and one can only hope further punishment will be meted out to the perpetrators. Such scenes have no place on a sporting field regardless of the code or the importance of the event.

Scenes like this can lead to crowd trouble, such as we used to see in South Africa but that are now, thankfully, a rare occurrence.

Such scenes can also lead to confrontation between both sets of supporters inside and outside the stadium, and can result in serious injury or even loss of life.

The game was held up for nine minutes while the referee consulted the VAR which, to some, is far too long, with a total of 14 minutes added on at the end of the 90.

The most important thing is that the decision was correct – even if it did take too long and justice was not only done, but seen to be done.

The frustration of the Grêmio players was made worse when their defender Bressan was sent off for a second yellow card for a challenge that led to the penalty.

Fifa and its affiliates are conspicuous by their absence and silent when such instances occur. They must take some of the blame for delaying or allowing their federations to delay the introduction of the VAR.

For example, it only comes into force in the English Premier League next season (2019/20), and they profess to be the best league in the world.

Other countries would appear to be more progressive and are already using the technology that is there.

For heaven’s sake, it’s not rocket science. Television companies are constantly replaying incidents from several different angles – without the VAR. Why can the match officials not use that? What’s the big deal?

Meantime, referees, their assistants and fourth officials, it has to be said, bear the brunt of every whim and cry from the players, coaches and spectators.

Come on federations and confederations, get your act together and give the referees the tools they need to control a game – or scrap it altogether and let’s get back to basics.

Happy whistling!

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

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