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VAR - The solution to the refereeing problem?


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For the last few years, refereeing consistency has been a key discussion in football. 

It is fair to say that officiating has not been brilliant in England in the last few years, even in the top flight.

Whilst goal-line technology has stemmed some issues regarding has-it-hasn't-it-crossed-the-line, many issues still remain. Holding at corners, contentious penalty decisions and accusations of simulation.

Video assistant referees have been hailed as the solution to all of these problems. And now, when Brighton face Crystal Palace in what will likely be a fiery local derby on Monday (Jan 8th 2018), we finally have a chance to see VAR in action in the world's oldest cup competition.

VAR isn't exactly new. Both the Serie A and Bundesliga have employed it this season, with varying levels of success.

The concept revolves around the referee being in constant conversation with another referee on the touchline, who is able to view replays of events in slow motion and offer advice on contentious key decisions.

Whilst English video referee's can award or strike off penalties or goals, they will not have a say on fouls or tackles outside the box. 

So is this really much of an improvement? On one hand, yes. Some recent penalty decisions have been absolutely farcical- Chambers against West Bromwich Albion springs to mind and hopefully VAR will stamp out these poor decisions.

Referees don't usually have the benefit of replays and they are only human, so giving them help is not a crime. Replays from many angles usually allow TV pundits to clear up issues, so why should the arbitrator of the game's laws not benefit from the same technology? 

Equally, acts like simulation should become less frequent. Players now face the ignominious treatment of retrospective diving bans if they try and cheat, VAR will offer the chance to resolve these issues even swifter.

The FA have announced that retrospective bans will still be enforced, so eventually a player will have the dubious honour of being booked for simulation following a VAR review and then finding themselves retrospectively banned by the Diving Panel for trying to con the referee into giving a penalty. In that sense, the game should become more transparent.

On the other side, VAR isn't going to be able to deal with everything. The contentious crunching 50-50 slide tackle is still going to be a minefield for the referee. Do you send the player off for lack of control, or have a quiet word and tell him to calm down?

The recent Tottenham V West Ham game had a similar incident - Masuaku was chopped down on the halfway line and thirty seconds later, Heung-Min Son was celebrating a stunning strike. VAR might have seen the game pulled back at this break in play for a free kick to West Ham. Son's moment of magic would be completely irrelevant. 

We come to the biggest fear around the video assistant referee. Will the flow of the game be disrupted? And to be honest, it seems difficult to argue how this wouldn't be the case.

Even if it is a short replay, the two referees still need to converse regarding the decisions. Stoppages could become more drawn out and matches could become tenser as a result- which could be especially frustrating in tighter games when one side is "parking the bus" and looking to waste time. 

Video refereeing seems to have become the next logical step in the increasingly technological world of football. Only time will tell whether this a good thing or not.

One thing is for sure, we can't judge it solely on one FA Cup tie between two sides that have a strong animosity toward one another.

Image Credit - MaxPixel. Wikipedia Commons. 

Image above shows Swiss referee Massimo Busacca. The use of his image in no way suggests that he is relevant to the discussion of the topic above. 

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