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Thursday July 6 2017
VAR Nightmare

Serie A introduces VAR in every game from this season, but Susy Campanale sees a potential disaster looming on the horizon.

VAR (Video Assistant Referees) are finally being implemented after decades – at least in Italy’s late-night TV review shows – of complaints and demands. The idea was greeted with declarations that it’d end the Juventus hegemony in Serie A, suddenly resolve all protests and fix a broken game. That was before people saw it in action. Now they’re starting to realise what I’d warned for a while: this is going to make things even worse.

I am not against the idea of using technology in football, as goal-line sensors have been a Godsend, nor do I think it inappropriate to interrupt the game when needed to get a closer look at a decision. I simply believe that the fundamental lack of trust within Italian football will only be exacerbated by VAR.

The TV programmes that cover calcio in Italy are hours of shouting matches where the same footage can be viewed from 10 different angles at five speeds, still nobody can agree on anything about the incident other than the referee was incompetent. At least then the official had the ‘benefit’ of only seeing it once in real time, critics had to at minimum pretend they could forgive him an error. Once the ref sees the same footage we do and comes to perhaps a different decision than the one we would’ve chosen, what then? All we are left with is: ‘well CLEARLY he must be biased.’ No excuses. I'm just waiting for the first person to bring it up in Parliament, citing it as reason for sportsbook or bookies apps to be investigated.

You’d think we would’ve learned by now that most incidents in football are not cut and dry. One man’s foul is another man’s tough but fair tackle. The rules on handball and how to judge if it was voluntary are vague at the absolute best, positively muddled at the worst. Even offside isn’t as clear as it used to be, now that strikers are supposed to be given the benefit of the doubt and interfering with play can be up to interpretation. There are very few incidents where you can say: the referee undoubtedly got that wrong.

VAR was used in the Confederations Cup and Under-20 World Cup, both with frankly painful results. Famously in the semi-final, Chile were denied a stonewall penalty against Portugal, even with the use of technology it was designed to catch. Germany won the Final despite Gonzalo Jara avoiding a red card for elbowing Timo Werner in the chin. Serbian referee Milorad Mazic viewed the footage and opted for a yellow card, which was the only thing you can’t really give in those circumstances. Either it was voluntary and a red card offence or it wasn’t and warranted no action. A booking on an elbow is a refereeing shrug, what you do when you’re hedging your bets and didn’t’ see it clearly.

Germany and Chile let these issues pass with remarkable aplomb, partly because it’s the Confederations Cup and therefore not that important. Good luck getting such calm reactions in a Serie A match. There will be bedlam, all the players will either crowd round the monitors when there’s a dubious incident or look up at the large screens in the stadium, and they’ll all have an opinion to share.

The Confederations Cup also showed us the rules on implementing VAR are very vague. Some incidents weren’t evaluated because the players didn’t call for VAR, assuming the officials behind the monitor would do it automatically. In tennis, there is a limit on the number of technology appeals you can make, but in football so far you can happily ask for every other tackle in the box to be viewed.

Wait until we get to the traditional Italian method of challenges in the box for a corner or free kick. You can guarantee there’s at least one foul going on in there at every set play, so which ones get highlighted and which don’t? Can you still get booked for dissent if the video then proves you had a point?

I wrote a column over a decade ago noting that technology wouldn’t help resolve the problems in Italian football, because someone would still complain that the robotic referee making the decisions was programmed by a Juventino. VAR is providing the worst of both worlds – technology to remove the excuse of not being able to see the incident and a human mind to make the decision.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
@roma fan Just install Ad Blocker man and you won't see any of them, ever again!
on the 9th July, 2017 at 1:54pm
ohh poor juve fans and their club. My condolence to them.
on the 7th July, 2017 at 3:08am
OUT OF TOPIC THIS PAGE HAS TOO MANY ADDS NOW, NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO READ STUFF
on the 6th July, 2017 at 11:51pm
I really hope they put a time limit on how long they review a decision. Could you imagine waiting 5 minutes for a call to come through?
How about how far they look back, e.g. two passes ago a shirt tug that impeded defender, slowing them getting back to stop a goal..
I over exaggerate a bit, but you get my point?
on the 6th July, 2017 at 10:06pm
Good article Susy, but you know very well as everybody else that the VAR is a work in progress, not without faults.It will have to evolve from mistakes to make the system as perfect as it can be. I would love a NFL system, but unfortunately, the few good ideas in the US are completely ignored in football, like cap salary and stuff, things that are really needed in European football, specially UCL. Let's see how this system develops, since at the end of the day Juventus will exploit this somehow
on the 6th July, 2017 at 7:35pm
@Anonymous As an Udinese fan I can't wait for the introduction of VAR - less margin for human error means less excuses for losers. In Italy there are teams that complain and lose and teams that put their heads down and win, and very rarely do the two overlap.
on the 6th July, 2017 at 5:52pm
Looking forward to the VAR, it will keep players honest and look to make sure that the fans and clubs stop moaning and pointing fingers to cover their own issues, the only real worry that I have is that it may weaken normal play if a strong challenge or holding and opponent away from you is phased out because the players of today are boys, not men! Strong but fair has to be respected. Plus napoli and Roma might lose 10 points now lololol
on the 6th July, 2017 at 5:38pm
I see a disaster alright... for JUVE...
on the 6th July, 2017 at 5:19pm
I actually would like to see this VAR gets implemented just only to find those losers calling these things already being programmed by a Juventino. It would be hilarious. Blaming Juve for their own failure is a trend in Italian football. So I know I'm going to find them idiots. Infact I can bet you that there are already fools calling this not to get implemented with their stupid reason unlike to this article with legit argument, that Juve favoritism would be further enhanced cause of technology
on the 6th July, 2017 at 5:01pm
This technology will make Italian Soccer even better. Controversy is Italian Football, without it we would be The Bundesluga, or worse, La Liga or Premiership, boring and predictable.
on the 6th July, 2017 at 4:11pm
Susy is a Milan fan you moron. If anything she's quite biased against Juve.
on the 6th July, 2017 at 4:08pm
Nonsense. The VAR will be fine and it's long overdue. I am tired of Juve being awarded legit penalties, and have to listen to weeks of abuse from the media, and rival fans. Having VAR will only reinforce the refs correct decision, now what will the babies have to say?
on the 6th July, 2017 at 3:49pm
It's a mindset thing more than anything else. Change is good.

#TeamVAR
on the 6th July, 2017 at 3:42pm
Yes you see problems cos you are a juve fan and all juve fans should be worried. Bunch of bullies, strong and almighty in Serie A with the help from the referees but have only won 2 Champions League in their history. Lose so many finals cos they choke and get no help from the refs.
on the 6th July, 2017 at 3:06pm
It's a mindset thing more than anything else. Change is good. #TeamVAR
on the 6th July, 2017 at 2:45pm
Haha, the Juve fan doesn't want to see technology implemented for fear of exposing them.
on the 6th July, 2017 at 2:37pm
Completely agree.

Can't wait for an incident like that to happen in favor of Juventus - entire Italy will go full retard again with their victim mentality.
on the 6th July, 2017 at 2:23pm
If it works as it should, it will be an utter disaster for Napoli fans - they may finally have to blame something aside from Juventus for their failures, like their unbalanced, top-heavy squad or that their President spends more time complaining to the media than thinking about how to make improvements.
on the 6th July, 2017 at 1:57pm

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