Video Assistance: Good or Bad?

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Video replay has become a growing trend in many sports around the world. Cricket, basketball, American football and baseball have all begun to use some variation of the concept.

Referees can miss important calls at any point in a match, and depending on the circumstances these missed calls can have a tremendous impact.

But FIFA and world football have been mostly cold to the possibility of adding a video assistant referee to match proceedings.

However, that stance is beginning to change.

In selected friendly matches and in a few leagues around the globe, FIFA has started to use a video assistant referee (or VAR).

The system involves a fifth official, either on the sidelines or in the booth, with access to video replays during a live match.

Key moments like a call for a penalty or a goal-line clearance by the defence can be looked at and ruled upon with more certainty.

For situations like what took place with England and Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany at the 2010 World Cup, this clearly could have been a helpful use of technology.

We examine some of the pros and cons for the addition of the VAR in the game.

PROS

Clubs, players, fans, referees, supporters and pundits alike all share one common goal in this topic – to get the call right on the pitch.

The VAR would certainly allow that to take place with more regularity and keep referee mistakes to a minimum.

With the enormous influence that some matches hold, from World Cups to the UEFA Champions League, it is crucial to be accurate with judgements.

Cases of mistaken identity, like when Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs was sent off instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Chelsea in 2014, can be clarified so that the wrong player is not punished.

CONS

The flow of a match certainly stands out as a possible negative for adding a video replay official. Ideally, both sides should be playing a straightforward encounter.

But with so many other actions that look to take advantage of a referee’s decision or waste time on the clock, it’s hard to see how video replay would make matters much worse.

The United Soccer League, the third division in the United States, began to use the VAR for matches midway through their current season.

The first time it was put to use was a contest between New York Red Bulls II and Orlando City B at Red Bull Arena last month.

After initially ruling a foul on Red Bulls midfielder Junior Flemmings to be a free kick outside the box, Orlando defender Conor Donovan received a red card for taking away “a clear goal scoring opportunity”.

The VAR was initially used on the play to see if the foul occurred inside the penalty area.

While the replay did not take up much time, purists argue that human error is a part of the game and replay will take away from that.

Similar sentiments were heard when replay review was brought into Major League Baseball.

Will the VAR ultimately make every play come under too much scrutiny? Perhaps, but FIFA appears to be preparing to step into this new technology in the near future.

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