In July I spoke with Ben Sigmund about defending in the A-League.
The first round of the A-League saw the return of VAR, which once again drew attention away from the football.
But it isn’t just the accuracy of the decisions that is questionable, but the process itself.
The problems with the process are twofold. Firstly, there’s the issue of technological limitations, which mean that subjective human interpretation will always be involved. And secondly, the fact the play continues during the decision-making process can create paradoxes.
Making offside calls with VAR is especially problematic.
Because both players and the ball are always moving it’s possible for movement to occur between frames that are captured by the camera. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Kosta Barbarouses was actually onside but that there simply wasn’t a frame recorded on camera to prove this.
Technological limitations will mean that subjective human interpretation will always be involved. There are always going to be controversies due to human fallibility or differing perspectives.
The bigger problem with the VAR process, however, is that play continues while decisions are under review by the VAR system.
Play shouldn’t continue while a decision is under review by VAR. Imagine, using Saturday’s game at Parramatta for example, if the Mariners had scored while the decision process was taking place and had their goal was overturned by an event that happened over three minutes beforehand.
Alternatively, what if the Wanderers had scored and the reverse scenario unfolded. They could have had their own goal chalked off and have had to have gone back to the penalty spot, which they could then have possibly ended up missing.
Or how about if the Mariners had scored an own goal during the VAR process only to have it overturned and then gone to a penalty for the Wanderers for the previous handball incident, which they then may or may not have ended up converting.
What happens if a player gets a red card, should that be overturned? It doesn’t make sense that a red card incident happened during the VAR process but that a goal didn’t.
Imagine if a Mariners player went in studs up on a Wanderers player causing a red card and an associated penalty, which they then scored, before being told to retake it for the previous incident for the handball. Should the red card and the goal both be overturned or just the goal? And again, what if the Wanderers end up missing the penalty after the goal is overturned.
You may think that some of my scenarios sound farcical and that they would never occur, but during a Bundesliga match between Mainz and Freiburg there was a bizarre case that actually did happen.
In the dying seconds of the first half, a player for Freiburg committed a handball in the penalty area but appeals by Mainz were dismissed by the referee who then blew the whistle for half time. After the players had left the pitch and gone to their dressing rooms, they had to be called back out again when the VAR reversed the initial decision made six minutes and 44 seconds earlier. Mainz then converted the penalty to go 1-0 up into the break rather than being level at 0-0.
Even if cases like this are rare or unlikely, they aren’t entirely impossible. But if you cap the amount of time that’s allowed for a VAR review to take place, then decisions will have to be made more quickly, potentially making them less accurate.
A quick goal could be scored in less than 30 seconds, so is that enough time for a considered review? Cue the complaints.
If there’s a VAR review then fans need to be kept in the loop about what’s going on, but that can be difficult and distracting if play is ongoing. So if there’s a VAR review underway, then play should stop until it is finished and time should be added on at the end of the half – the same as what happens when a player is down injured.