Video Assistant Referee, A Mixed Blessing – Soccer Fans

The Video Assistant Referee, VAR, introduced in football two years ago, has continued to generate controversies among various stakeholders in the soccer world.

Diverse opinions have been made over the impact of the VAR on the round leather game.

In this report, sports reporter, Oluwakayode Banjo examines the controversies surrounding VAR and its impact on the football game.

Video Assistant Referee, VAR, is an assistant referee in football who reviews decisions made by the head referee on the pitch with the use of video footage and headset for communication.

Following extensive trials in a number of major competitions, VAR was first written into the laws of the game by the International Football Association Board in 2018 and the first major tournament it was used was the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The International Football Association Board decided that penalty decisions, violations during build up play, red card decisions and mistaken identity during red cards and yellow cards, would be major calls the VAR could review.

Since it was introduced at the 2018 World Cup, it has certainly left a mark of controversy on soccer fans all over the globe.

Some high profile matches which witnessed VAR drama included Manchester city versus Tottenham in the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League quarter final clash, Portugal versus Iran Group B clash in the 2018 World Cup and Senegal versus Algeria in last year’s AFCON final. 

Also, in the just concluded 2019/2020 English Premier League season, several match day referees’ call were upheld or overturned by the VAR, with some clubs benefitting while others were left bitter by some cruel and perceived wrong decisions.

These controversies, coupled with the long pause of the game while decisions were being reviewed by the VAR, has made some football managers, former players and pundits call for the scrapping of the VAR.

In separate interviews, soccer lovers in Ibadan bared their minds on the VAR.

A sports analyst, Mr Sunday Agunbiade noted that the introduction of the VAR had given referees a second chance to review decisive actions in the game.

Mr Agunbiade also believed that the VAR had reportedly rendered the job of assistant referees irrelevant.

Speaking on the criticism of the VAR, the sports analyst said the operators of the VAR should be blamed for the controversies.

However, a veteran referee, Alhaji Mohammed Ameenu opined that the VAR had positively affected decision making in football matches.

Alhaji Ameenu said the VAR should not be blamed for perceived controversial decisions, rather the blame should be attributed to the application and expectations placed on the var.

The veteran referee said no matter the technology deployed, there could be no perfect decision in all football matches.

Oluwakayode Banjo

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