Why we won't - and shouldn't - see VAR in SA anytime soon

VAR (Supplied)
VAR (Supplied)

Cape Town - The high cost of implementing video assistant referee (VAR) technology is the overriding reason as to why the Premier Soccer League (PSL) has held off on calls to introduce the system.

After a number of errors by match officials this season - with mistakes being made almost weekly - fans have called for VAR to be introduced into our local game.

VAR is used to decide on contentious issues such as the awarding of goals and penalties, decisions over direct red cards and cases of mistaken identity. Leagues that use the technology require a fifth match official to study video footage of an incident before a decision is communicated by the referee.

After yet another blatant error in the awarding of a penalty to Orlando Pirates in their 3-2 win over Polokwane City on Tuesday, calls will no doubt grow even louder for some form of assistance for referees.

However, it may be some time before we see VAR in the top-flight of South African football and after highly-contentious decisions as a result of the technology across the top five European leagues, this is potentially a blessing in disguise.

High costs

Clubs from Brazil's Serie A - the top division in Brazilian club football - rejected the planned implementation of VAR for their 2018 season over the eye-watering R82 million (€5.1 million) cost per-season.

The PSL recently declared a record R1.005 billion in revenue. It's highly doubtful that the league would cough up just under 10% of that figure on VAR.

This year has also seen several dubious calls in the English Premier League's first season of using VAR with controversy resulting on an almost weekly basis. Clear and obvious penalties have either been wrongly given - or ruled out - with direct red card incidents being wrongly overturned despite the benefit of video replays.

Therefore it appears the inconsistent use of VAR, rather than the actual technology, is more often than not at fault.

You could only imagine what controversy VAR combined with a substandard level of officiating would cause in the Absa Premiership.

Another reason for its absence is that not all top-flight matches are televised which is an obvious problem.

Absa Premiership teams are allowed to name two alternative stadiums - along with a primary 'home' venue - with clubs such as Kaizer Chiefs able to host matches in other cities (most often Durban) at short notice.

Many stadiums also lack the necessary infrastructure to begin with.

Alternatives to VAR?

So how do we improve the standard of refereeing in South Africa?

The most important aspect should be to make referees full-time employees and increase their salaries. The higher the salary, the better the talent one would be able to recruit.

Goal-line technology would cost R3.8 million to install at each stadium and R57 000 for each game. This could be an alternative to VAR.

Premier League laws state that referees are not allowed to officiate games involving the teams they support nor are they allowed to cover their rival's games.

Do we know who our local referees support? We should do to rule out any possibility of bias.

Referees also need to be held accountable for mistakes by either dropping down to a lower tier or being suspended for a certain period.

The use of VAR shouldn't be ruled out for future use, but we cannot paint over the underlying cracks in our game with it. We should be patient and allow the top leagues around the world to first implement if effectively.

Advertising during a video review could also be used as a possible revenue stream to minimise costs.

Eventually down the line an effective manner of using VAR will be identified and brought to our shores along with smart marketing decisions to make it affordable.

Follow Baden Gillion on Twitter

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