Hanging Judge| Focus shifts to VAR in Russia

Dr Errol Sweeney
Dr Errol Sweeney

I suppose it was almost inevitable that the new video assistant referee (VAR) system was going to play a major role in decision-making during the World Cup matches in Russia.

This is the first time such a mechanism has been used to decide on alleged misdeeds on the field of play.

It is used to identify players correctly, and inspect penalty incidents, straight red cards and offside goals.

I’m not one to look for excuses, but, to my mind, the referees in some cases are becoming too reliant on the system. In other cases, they are not using it at all.

There has been much criticism of some match officials at this tournament.

For example, in the England versus Tunisia game, there were two occasions when the system could have been used, but the referee decided to ignore it.

England striker Harry Kane was very obviously and clearly being manhandled by a Tunisian defender in the penalty area.

I could see it. The television cameras picked it up and the crowd was screaming for a penalty, but the referee and his assistants saw nothing.

Where were they looking and how could they not see it? Is it another case of what I call refereeing cowardice?

Did they, in their misguided interpretation, not see anything wrong with what happened?

Was their line of vision so obscured that they couldn’t see what everyone else could see?

Whatever their explanation, and I hope they have one, it is not good enough at a major tournament like the World Cup for such “mistakes” to occur.

I also hope they can come up with answers to what everybody is asking: Why, why, why?

Contrast that incident with the work of Iranian referee Alireza Faghani in the Germany versus Mexico game. I thought he was a breath of fresh air.

I’d not heard of this gentleman before and I have to confess that I thought the game might have been too big for him.

From the beginning, Faghani stamped his authority on the game with a calmness and composure that belied his international experience, or inexperience.

I loved the way he held his arms out in front of him when a German player came towards him to complain about something.

Faghani was basically saying: “That far, my friend, and no further.”

Too often, we see players getting up close and personal with match officials. Yes, even right into the referee’s face, and this is unacceptable.

Faghani stood his ground, dealt with the situation in a calm, cool and calculated manner, and, to my mind, gave the impression that he was not going to be intimidated by any player, regardless of his fame or notoriety.

But getting back to the VAR system.

There isn’t much point in having a system from which the referee can seek clarity about situations if the men in black are not going to use it.

The system was brought in to clarify certain situations, and perhaps it is too limited by only being used for four at the moment.

The doubters and critics are already having a field day and, to some extent, their criticism is justified.

Perhaps it will take another couple of years before all the “teething” problems have been sorted out.

But the only ones who can make the system work are the people who are not using it to its full extent.

I guess you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Thank goodness for goal-line technology. The ball clearly crossed the line in the Colombia versus Japan game on Tuesday, yet the Japanese keeper tried to convince the referee that it hadn’t.

Dear oh dear.

Happy whistling.

* Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol


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