Rewind back to 2006. The night will remain etched in Australian sporting fans’ memories forever.

A group of plucky Australian underdogs took on the might of the Italian Azzurri in the Round of 16 and fought hard for nearly the entire match.

I don’t need to explain what happens next – we don’t need to shed any more tears.

Technology was supposed to stop this, we were promised that it wouldn’t happen again. The grey area was to be separated into black and white. Fair tackle or dive, penalty or no penalty. Simple.

Sport, however, is not simple. There is little left in modern sport that has remained natural, organic and instinctive.

Sport is complex and in many instances, the use of technology hasn’t resulted in the idealistic sporting utopia that we were promised. It’s impossible.

The introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was intended to highlight the difference between what is a dive and what is a tackle.

I don’t know the difference and it seems the officials in Kazan on Saturday night weren’t too sure either.

But the purpose of this article is not to bemoan the penalty awarded against Australia. Maybe it was a penalty? Maybe it wasn’t? The debate has and will continue to rage for days.

The debates arise from subjective nature of officialdom in sports such as football.

Take a random focus group who all view any one tackle. Their opinions will likely range from instant red card to play on – and the opinions of referees are as diverse as those of the fans.

That’s part of what makes sport great, it simultaneously unifies and divides opinions.

But has the introduction of technology unified these opinions? Based on the evidence of Saturday night – no it hasn’t.

It was inevitable that the limitations of VAR would rear its ugly head at some point during the World Cup.

We are asking the technology to do what it cannot. Officials watching television replays cannot judge intent or force of challenges objectively.

Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring against Australia

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Did Josh Risdon’s desperate lunge only succeed in tripping French superstar Antoine Griezmann and prevent a goal scoring opportunity?

Or did he successfully clip the ball, and send it beyond the Frenchman’s reach, allowing him the opportunity to exaggerate the challenge?

One angle says he dived. Another shows an illegal tackle.

The referee decided that the vision was conclusive enough to overturn his decision and awarded the penalty that Griezmann duly converted.

But only a few hours later in Moscow, Argentine substitute Cristian Pavon drove towards the by-line in Iceland’s penalty box, he appeared to be brought down by Iceland’s Birkir Saevarsson.

Replays showed clear contact to Pavon, with Saevarsson not getting a touch on the ball. As with the Griezmann incident, the referee initially blew play-on.

But there was no follow-up, no VAR intervention. What appeared to be a clear foul inside the penalty area went unchecked, and Argentina drew against their unfavoured opponents.

At present, we have an imperfect system trying to perfect an imperfect game. We that follow the A-League are most aware of this.

In tennis, the challenge system has modernised and added to the drama and spectacle of the traditional game.

It has a simple mandate: track the ball and identify if it landed in or out. A simple system for a simple game.

But in football, it’s a mess.

Some incidents are checked and not others. Some replays are available to the VAR and some not. Penalties are awarded to some nations, and not others. Conspiracy theorists eat your heart out!

Technology does have its place, just keep VAR to what it can control. Goal-line technology has been a great addition to the game because it’s simple.

Similar to tennis, it tracks the ball and determines whether it crossed the line.

VAR could be used for offside decisions as well, again because it’s a straight-line adjudication.

Newcastle fans may disagree, so FIFA must ensure that all camera replays are available to help the on-field officials.

In some sports, technology doesn’t fit.

Football is one of them, and VAR’s current form is inconsistent, slows the game down, and its verdicts on such incidents are no more conclusive or objective than the referee’s original decisions.

Rather than try to fix these problems with a problem system, celebrate the imperfections of football.

It might just make football beautiful again.

Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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The Crowd Says (9)

  • Roar Guru

    June 19th 2018 @ 3:35am
    NUFCMVFC said | June 19th 2018 @ 3:35am | ! Report

    Yeah generally it is going to be a mess, plus it undermines the emotions, eg just then the elation of enjoying Lukaku’s goal was undermined by whether they will “allow it” or not

    Plus it can enrage a stadium not aware of what is going on, eg in the MVFC vs AUFC Semi we were all wondering why Besh wasn’t taking his penalty and then after 5 mins Barbarouses is Red Carded

    Take the World Cup, are they going to send that Serbian guy off or not, all this stoppage during Injury time too

    Goal-Line technology is a great addition, VAR is not

    In the past we could get irritated about the ref and move on, now countries/Managers/Players are going to go on about a systematic conspiracy by the VAR – whatever way it goes, eg some in our position would complain the decision was elicited to help the more fancied team get through. Imagine the 3rd Group games or the knockout games. Other side is the infamous 2002 “ball is still in” decision in favour of South Korea gets overturned

    In our case, sure the Linesman missed a closish offside, it happens but all of a sudden people try to put a cloud over the result even though Thomas kept out a Newcastle surge and then Muscat put in place good tactics

    VAR is a mess that undermines the emotional intensity and creates as many issues as it solves

  • June 19th 2018 @ 8:51am
    Nick Symonds said | June 19th 2018 @ 8:51am | ! Report

    Everyone’s talking about the VAR –

    “A system that was brought in to eliminate errors is now causing more conjecture. In the pursuit of black and white only more grey has emerged — and given what we’ve seen so far, that’s unlikely to stop any time soon.”

  • Roar Guru

    June 19th 2018 @ 9:27am
    JamesH said | June 19th 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

    The problem has nothing to do with imperfect technology.

    Like the AFL’s goal review system and cricket’s third umpire, VAR is limited by the available camera angles available. We knew that this would be the case when it was implemented, and it shouldn’t matter. The system is only there to overrule clear mistakes.

    The issue is that each of the VAR problems in the WC so far has resulted from human error. In the case of Iceland, it wasn’t used when it should have been. In the case of Australia, it was used to overturn a decision when there was no conclusive evidence to do so. No one could have looked at those replays and said Risdon definitely didn’t get the ball.

    These are mistakes in the use of the system by people who are supposed to be trained to know when and how to use that system. That is what is letting the VAR down.

    • June 19th 2018 @ 10:18am
      Kris said | June 19th 2018 @ 10:18am | ! Report

      We don’t know what replays the ref is looking at. We get the host broadcasters choice, not what the ‘bunker’ is showing the ref.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 19th 2018 @ 7:04pm
      Tom VDS said | June 19th 2018 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

      Would have thought inadequate camera angles available to the VAR is imperfect technology JamesH? The VAR under its current technological inhibitions and inconsistent use from one case to another, means it is presently unable to reliably adjudicate on such decisions.
      FIFA need to make their minds up as to what they want VAR to be: is it to ensure every decision is 100% correct, or is it intended to remove only major referee errors?

  • June 19th 2018 @ 10:17am
    Kris said | June 19th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

    I think that VAR / 3rd umpire / goal review etc etc should not allow slow-mo. They should only allow real-time vision.

    If the ref watches a replay at real speed and can see an error – then it is clear and should be overturned. Show the ref a couple of angles by all means.

    If the ref is rocking and rolling a still shot to see if there was an edge, or the defender got a touch, or the goal was touched etc – then it is no longer a review but a complete re-adjudication. That isn’t in the spirit of fixing glaring mistakes or bringing something to the attention of a ref he might have missed (eg off the ball fouls).

    • Roar Rookie

      June 19th 2018 @ 7:14pm
      Tom VDS said | June 19th 2018 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

      I think your last point is the crux of it Kris. VAR was not brought in to re-adjudicate these 50-50 decisions. It’s for the Argentina non-penalty, and for the Sweden penalty awarded the other night. That’s what the technology is for. If it’s obvious from the first replay, change the decision, like you would for goal line technology and offside..

  • Roar Rookie

    June 19th 2018 @ 11:57am
    At work said | June 19th 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

    Here here!
    “Rather than try to fix these problems with a problem system, celebrate the imperfections of football.”

  • June 19th 2018 @ 7:42pm
    Anthony Ferguson said | June 19th 2018 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

    I’m hoping var will improve over time. I do like the goal line technology. Imagine if we had it in the past – Lampard’s goal v Germany would have counted. No Maradona hand of God goal in 86, and finally the truth about Hurst’s goal in 66.

    Also, if that France pen was legit (it wasn’t) then there was an assault by a German on a Mexican attacker in the box that should have been TWO penalties, yet didnt even go to var.

    One rule for them, another rule for us…

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