The video assistant referee(VAR) was introduced to mitigate the human factor in officiating during this Bundesliga season.However, it has been mired in controversy.
There was the premise that the video referees would bring justice to the game. In a sport, where much is at stake, it is important for technology to assist the human limitation in officiating, some argued.The video assistant referees operating from Cologne would aid the officiating referee on the pitch.
Unfortunately, there have been some hiccups in the implementation. The officiating has not gotten better but worse according to some.
Dennis Aogo, a Stuttgart player has called for the eradication of video evidence in games. He said in Zweierkette, a Podcast from Amazon “basically, I am of the opinion that we should scrap the video evidence and let the sport be. I buy the idea that the human factor is important and they could lead to a mistake.” Aogo added, “I can not live with the fact that despite the video assistants, faulty decisions are being made.”
The video assistant referees are expected to work in the background and give insight into strategic decisions but it has led to slow gameplay and rise in emotions. Recently in the game between Schalke and Bayern, the referee on the pitch did not find an infringement from Naldo as handball, but the video assistant informed the referee on the pitch that it was a penalty.
Another incident, where the intervention of the video assistant referee was uncalled for was in the game Stuttgart versus Freiburg on Sunday. Caglar Söyüncü of Freiburg was sent off the pitch after 12 minutes of play. His offense was handball and preventing a goal chance. The referee of the match, Tobias Stieler, gave the red card after he was informed by the VAR, Felix Zwayer, and he watched the video replay
The decisions of the referees on the pitch could be reviewed at any time during the game and it has brought insecurity on the pitch. The players and managers try to intimidate the officiating referee on the pitch.
It is not all negative report about the use of VAR in the Bundesliga. In the Rhein derby between Leverkusen versus Cologne, the referee Manuel Gräfe, disallowed the third goal of Leverkusen based on instructions from the VAR in charge, Günter Perl, because Leon Bailey scored the goal with the assistance of his hand.
The VAR played a decisive factor in the match Bayern versus Leipzig in Munich, where Willi Orban of Leipzig committed a professional foul against Arjen Robben in the early minutes of the game.
Bibiana Steinhaus, the first female referee in the Bundesliga, said in Sportbild,”even though I act on the field like there is no video referee, I feel secure in the knowledge that a colleague uses lots of TV angles to review my decision.” She believes its an advantage for football.
It will take some time before the video evidence becomes commonplace. However, it is not a guarantee against wrong calls as it was envisaged. Because despite the tools in possession of a VAR, his/her judgment sometimes is subjective and mixed with a cocktail of time constraints and pressure to act.
Therefore, one should expect to see some heated debates between innovators about the usefulness of using a VAR in matches, and purists who want the beautiful game to remain as it is without technology playing a decisive role.
It does not matter the camp that you belong. One thing is clear-justice in football should not be elusive.