Hanging Judge | With the advent of the VAR, refs’ decisions are no longer final

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There will be those who will say that the ref has the final say despite the VAR, perhaps, advising to the contrary. Photo: Simon Hofmann - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
There will be those who will say that the ref has the final say despite the VAR, perhaps, advising to the contrary. Photo: Simon Hofmann - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images


There’s a section in law 5 of the Fifa laws of the game that says: “The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored, and the result of the match, are final. The decisions of the referee, and all other match officials, must always be respected.”

That has been paraphrased to say, in simple terms, that the referee’s decision is final.

So where does that leave the review committees? They generally sit 24 to 48 hours after a game and review an incident or a decision by the referee. The committees then decide whether one or more of his/her decisions are to be overturned.

This is something I have mixed emotions about as it flies in the face of the above-mentioned section. Mixed emotions because I believe that justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done.

Then along comes the video assistant referee (VAR).

In effect, in my opinion, it’s the same thing. I know many will argue that it’s not, and you are entitled to your opinion.

READ: Hanging Judge | Is the VAR in conflict with the laws of the game?

In simple terms, instead of waiting for a day or two to review an incident, it’s now being checked on the spot – on the day and on the field.

So where does that leave the written word that the ref’s decision is final? As far as I’m concerned, it’s obsolete.

The referee’s decision is no longer final. There will be those who will say that the ref has the final say despite the VAR, perhaps, advising to the contrary.

And that is true. Even in the VAR protocol, it states quite clearly that the referee will have the final say.

Fast forward and we are regularly seeing red cards being overturned by the review committee on a Monday. Can you see where I’m coming from? All very complicated. It’s sending out mixed and confusing messages to the public at large, not least to the players and the coaches.

There is a growing sense among some people that if they shout loud enough, they will get their way, and who can blame them?

The soccer politicians, as I like to call them, sit in judgement on a referee’s decision and they decide whether the law has been complied with or not.

Surely this can’t be right? Surely if this is the way to go then the law needs to be changed to something like: the ref’s decision is final until the review committee says so.

READ: Hanging Judge | Confusion reigns when refs are indecisive

Yes, I know I’m being facetious, but it is quite farcical.

Farcical because there’s another part of the law that says: “The referee may not change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official if play has restarted or the referee has signalled the end of the first or second half [including extra time] and left the field of play or terminated the match.”

If that be the case, and I’m quoting directly from the laws of the game, how can the review committees then change the referee’s decision one or two days after the game was played?

I’m not against change for the better. I am against change for the sake of change.

Happy whistling!


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