By William Hill
Last Updated: 7th January 2020
VAR sceptics and tech advocators have all been talking about the introduction of the system to World Cup 2018 in Russia. A general consensus is developing that the use of technology is improving the tournament as a whole – we look at the key reasons why and the implications for the rest of the competition.
VAR is exciting
Who knew implementing a thorough system to ensure correct decisions are made on goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity would result in added excitement to the beautiful game?
The anticipation between the referee making the VAR signal, to re-watching the footage, to blowing his whistle and making a final decision has become increasingly tense as the World Cup has progressed.
The world waited with bated breath when American referee Mark Geiger strode back onto the pitch pointing to the centre circle – correctly awarding South Korea a stoppage-time goal to send defending champions Germany crashing out of the World Cup.
We expect a few more nail-biting moments in the knockout rounds as VAR is called upon to clear up controversy.
Is VAR helping the officials?
On the subject of controversy, there have been a few decisions made with video assistance that sparked heated debate.
Alan Shearer has been a vocal critic of VAR, before and during the tournament in Russia. He described the awarding of a penalty to Iran against Portugal as “nonsense” and “a ludicrous decision”.
On the whole, technology has helped referees make better decisions. Out of the 14 situations formally reviewed by the video assistants in the first 36 matches at the World Cup, only one of them was deemed incorrect.
There’s a prevailing sense of justice at this World Cup, particularly when Neymar’s audacious shout for a penalty against Costa Rica went unheard.
VAR – a safety net for England
Although VAR wasn’t called upon for either of England’s clear penalty shouts against Tunisia – the Three Lions were repaid in their second group match against Panama. The Central Americans’ persistent holding at set pieces resulted in a second England penalty.
VAR wasn’t formally called upon on that occasion but it could provide a safety net for England going forward in the tournament.
In the years gone by England have consistently been on the wrong end of harsh or incorrect decisions by match officials at major tournaments.
With the addition of technology at previous tournaments, Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany in 2010 would’ve stood, Sol Campbell’s chalked off header against Argentina would’ve prevented a shoot-out defeat in 1998 and that famous ‘Hand of God’ would’ve been disallowed in 1986.
Loyalties aside, VAR has made the greatest show on earth more exciting (if that was even possible) and at the same time a lot fairer for everyone involved.