I’ve been excited about this Video Assistant Referee (VAR) business from the very beginning. Whether it’s incompetence, the pace of the game, not enough ARs on the field, or something else, the MLS refs are not getting it done. Every week the MLS Disciplinary Committee hands out multiple suspensions/fines/warnings because of calls that were missed on the field.
I’ve been making the case for VAR since last May, and it was just announced that they are ready to implement the system starting on August 5th. So let’s have a little refresher on what it means and what it can actually do.
The VAR is an actual person. He or she will be in a booth at the stadium and have the replays at their fingertips to check plays for “potential clear and obvious errors or serious missed incidents in four game-changing situations - goals, penalty decisions, direct red cards, and cases of mistaken identity.”
If the VAR notices an incorrect or missed call, they can tell the referee the correct decision, or the referee can review the play himself and make a decision from there. A referee can also ask for a VAR review from the field.
For those of you worried about it “taking up so much time” to review calls, it’s estimated that once the process is fine-tuned, it will only take about 20 seconds to review something. Fouls currently take upwards of 40 seconds, depending on what’s going on. So theoretically it will actually speed up the game, while improving the calls on the field.
A press release from the International Football Association Board back in March of 2016 stated that “the expectation is not to achieve 100 percent accuracy in decisions for every single incident, but to avoid clearly incorrect decisions that are pre-defined ‘game-changing’ situations – goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents and mistaken identity.”
So they’re clearly setting high standards for the referees, as usual.
Snarkiness aside, this is still not going to eliminate human error, but in my opinion, anything to help the refs do a better job is a good thing.