The VAR system was implemented in football in order to eradicate errors with the ultimate aim of it to achieve complete fairness in the game. The system looks to aid referees by helping them with crucial decisions whether that be penalties, sending offs or offside goals. The hope of the system was to completely eradicate any errors made by referees concerning crucial decisions. However, since its implementation in 2018 the system itself has come under a lot of scrutiny due to a plethora of decisions the seemingly foolproof system has gotten wrong.
The system aims to assist referees for decisions on goals, direct red cards, penalties and issues of mistaken identity relating to bookings. The system was given the biggest stage for its trial run as it was introduced in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Within the first week of the games however the inconsistency of the system was called into question as it failed to pick up on a number of key decisions. One was Harry Kane being clearly fouled by a Tunisian player in the box in England’s opening game of the tournament but the system failed to reward England with a penalty. Another decision that was missed by the system was Diego Costa’s foul on Portuguese defender Pepe which lead to the Spanish striker scoring a goal as the sides played out a 3-3 draw.
The system continued to be inconsistent throughout the tournament and this inconsistency was highlighted in the most important game in the football world, the World Cup Final. The two first half goals for the French shouldn’t have stood and in the eyes of many the inconsistent system won the final for the French as they ran out 4-2 winners over a spirited Croatian team. This is the problem with the system for many fans as they see the system as going against the spirit of the game and the delays for the system to make decisions leads to a tense atmosphere in both the stadium and at home.
The system has been introduced into many leagues and competitions this season and has more often than not gained the ire of many of its detractors. Last week’s Champions League encounter between Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain in Paris highlighted the failings of the system. Manchester United was awarded a late penalty as the system concluded that Presnel Kimpembe had blocked a shot with his hand. However, many perceived that the shot was taken from too close of a range for him to get his arm out of the way and also that the ball merely struck his arm rather than him trying to stop it.
Former FIFA chief Michel Platini is firmly against the system believing that it goes “against spirit of football”. He sees the system as being out of touch with the game as he believes the system awards penalties for any sort of touch of the ball off the hand no matter how minimal. The systems slowed down replays of incidents for Platini are proving to be problematic as he puts it “when I was a player I realised that televisions did not always tell the truth of the ground”.
Football has always been a game that has produced major talking points. The VAR system was introduced with the hope of putting these talking points to bed by bringing in swift and correct decisions. However, as many fans will tell you the decisions are anything but swift and they have proven to be incorrect a number of times. Only time will tell if the system will eventually eradicate the errors and bring more fairness to the beautiful game.