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Could football learn something from cricket's use of technology?

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Cam Wyper new author
Roar Rookie
3rd February, 2021

The introduction of video assistant referees has been controversial and questionable, but could football find answers from other sports?

The use of VAR in the Premier League once again stole the headlines on Tuesday evening after two red cards and penalties were awarded, causing significant bewilderment among both players and fans.

Minimal contact in dangerous penalty area situations resulted in straight red cards for Arsenal’s David Luiz and Southampton’s Jan Bednarek, following reviews from VAR.

Add to this the controversy surrounding the complicated lines used to determine an offside, which resulted in having to amend and clarify the handball rule, and football fans are becoming increasingly more frustrated with the use of the technology.

These kinds of decisions go a long way to deciding the outcome of matches and there is a significant group of people who feel that VAR has been a step backwards, and therefore it should be scrapped.


(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Other sports, such as the two rugby codes and cricket, also use similar technology, using video replays and an off-field official to review significant decisions.

The calls are slightly less subjective than in football, but one principle governs the use and intervention of the technology: there needs to be significant evidence to overturn any on-field decision.

The football equivalent of this is the phrase clear and obvious error. Even determining what is clear or indeed obvious has been a struggle to define.


The way that the two rugby codes and cricket use language to govern the use of the technology already provides better clarity and guidance for match officials, players and fans, so football could start by learning from them in that regard.

Furthermore, cricket uses the umpire’s call when using ball tracking technology for LBW dismissals. In a football context, the idea of an umpire’s call could be used when determining offsides.

Given that the offside rule was brought in by the FA to prevent attackers from benefiting from goal hanging, so if we start having to draw lines and use geometry sets to determine whether someone is offside by a matter of centimetres, are they really gaining an unfair advantage?

If VAR intervenes and can see that a forward is within a certain width (say one yard) of the deepest defender, that could be what is effectively umpire’s call, where it is difficult to accurately determine if the forward is offside or not, and therefore the on-field decision stands. This could still work both ways, regardless of whether the on-field decision is offside or onside.

It may not be as accurate as possible, but it provides more objectivity and clarity in football law, which anyone in football would find easier to understand and agree upon.


Cricket can live with the doubt, so why can’t football?