Serie A introduced VAR last year, so I got used to by now. I realize though, that for many people watching the World Cup right now, VAR is totally new. Don’t listen to the people that say it will ruin football, it won’t.
Nobody can argue that attempting to make the game more fair and eliminate officiating mistakes is a bad thing. In it’s essence, the Virtual Assistant Referee’s concept is perfectly righteous; however, it’s not perfect. The tough thing about VAR is working it into the flow of the game. The idea of a stadium celebrating a goal only for it to be overturned a minute later justifiably rubs people the wrong way. I used to fear that scenario too, until it actually happened to me a couple times. Yeah, it hurts a little at first but the ultimate sensation is that of fairness. You don’t feel robbed or cheated when VAR takes away a goal for offside, just a little bummed – and feeling bummed is fine and a normal part of sport. My prediction is that people will adjust to it very quickly, as they already are, and we will all look back and wonder why we let referees make such consequential mistakes when we had the technology to review plays from every possible angle in near real-time.
My issue with VAR is the theatrical and slow way in which it’s implemented. Why does it have to take so long for a play to be reviewed? Why does the referee have to stop the game, make the gesture, run off to the side and watch the replay on a screen? Why can’t he have some sort of smart watch or device where he can quickly watch a replay? Some plays can be hard to judge and require some time to really evaluate, but most times an infraction can be spotted right away through replay. If a player scores a goal from an offside position, it should take no longer than 15 seconds for replay footage to reach the referee and for him to make a judgement. It doesn’t take deep observation to establish if a player is offside so this should be pretty easy to do without interrupting play in such an emphatic style.