How can VAR technology be improved within soccer?

Following its well-publicized application at last year’s World Cup, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology was introduced to the Premier League this year. However, it has been met with great criticism.
VAR Checking Goal
VAR has completely changed the landscape of soccer. Photo: Premier League

VAR is supposed to improve official decisions made within soccer matches. Practically, every soccer game has a disputed call made from the referee. Whether it’s a penalty that shouldn’t be given or a goal that was incorrectly ruled offside.

However, there has been a huge controversy surrounding the technology since its introduction. Moreover, there is more drama now than before it existed. Namely, there are arguably more disputed calls made now than ever.

Not so fair game

VAR was supposed to help enable fair officiating within soccer matches. The technology was billed as a way for referees and their assistants to determine the correct course of action.

The fast-pace of the play means that fouls or important implications are often missed. VAR now picks up the majority of these previously missed actions. However, the decision, which is the most important aspect, is still left to human intervention.

Many of the missed calls used to be left open to interpretation. For example, a ball hitting the shoulder of a striker before scoring may or may not be given as a foul.

VAR offside check
Instead of reducing controversy, VAR has increased it. Photo: Premier League

However, now VAR gives the opportunity to over-analyze the situation but in the Premier League, this is left to a panel behind the screens. The referee is not given the opportunity to view it. Therefore, he is not the one making the decision based on his own analysis, which he should.

Human error

Furthermore, the viewers aren’t given the opportunity to hear the reasoning made by calls. Ultimately, the call is still being made by humans and there is no absolute process.

There are inconsistencies as a handball in one game is treated differently in another, depending on the officials looking at the screens. In other sports such as cricket, viewers can hear a step-by-step narrative by officials when they are reviewing a video. This helps others understand the decision-making process and doesn’t leave them in the dark.

Creating more problems

There are also many fans and pundits that feel that VAR is regressing the game as it is disallowing many goals that are were not usually disputed. Furthermore, the lines that are used to determine offside vary in length, which could impact the resolution.

VAR thin line
There has been criticism of the placement and width of VAR’s lines. Photo: Premier League

Normally, the striker is given the benefit of the doubt in an offside call. The offside rule is there to prevent strikers from goal-hanging or having an unfair advantage of the defender. If the decision is too close to call, the linesman usually lets it pass.

However, we are now starting to see so many goals being canceled because of VAR. Even if a striker’s hand has passed a defender, the goal is disallowed. As VAR shows this, the officials are naturally influenced to give it as offside. However, in actual application, a hand being past the defender is not going to usually give them the advantage.

VAR thick line
By having a thicker line, more teams could be penalised. Photo: Premier League

Overhaul of policy

Therefore, to fix this issue, the offside rule needs to be looked at again. An older ruling used to state that there needs to be daylight between the players to be sure that it is offside. If this older policy was reinstated with modern technology, it’ll enable more agreeable decisions to be made.

Altogether, the rule book of the game needs to be reviewed in order to successfully implement VAR technology. Governing bodies such as the FA, UEFA, and even FIFA need to concentrate on these points rather than the trivial aspects they have been looking at recently. If there is greater communication and clearer guidance, VAR can be a positive feature for world soccer.

Finally, if more updated forms of technology such as artificial intelligence are introduced, there would be more effective calls made. The current form of VAR technology seems very basic to what is available out there. If AI can be used to analyze game data, better judgement would be made.

What do you think of the way VAR is used at the moment? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

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