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Football News: My 2 cents on VAR technology and football

My 2 cents on VAR technology and football

Since it's the international break and there were some VAR discussions, thought i'd give my 2 cents on technology and football.

= The role of technology =
In all aspects of life, tech has always been intended to improve lives. There may be trade-offs, but the net benefit is there, hence the technology persists and improves with time. So has that happened with football?

= Goal line technology =
Was there a need? Yes, given this is probably the most important decision and event of the game and we have come across some contentious situations when the refs couldn't make a right decision due to angles, speed of play, so clear errors were made.

Are the rules clear? Yes, the whole ball must cross the line fully. Even if it's 1mm on the line, no goal.

Is there tech there? yes, and it works fine.

Impact? very positive, as there is clarity, objectivity and it's immediate.

Is the implementation sound? Yup! Unless the batteries ain't working.

= VAR =
It was intended to review incidents of the four match-changing situations: goals; penalty decisions; direct red-card incidents; and mistaken identity.

- Goals -
In this regard, there are offsides, fouls, handballs (attacking player).

Is there a need? Yes, just as goal line tech, this deals with the most impactful aspect of the game and is the one that invites most talking points and controversy when there seems to be contentions.

Are the rules clear? NO!
Offsides - you did think it would be, but no, here's why: which part of the body is considered, when is a player active or otherwise, when is it a back pass and when it isn't. They have messed up a simple offside rule, so unless it's cleaned up, VAR can't get to work.

Handballs and fouls - the same can be said of these 2 items, the rules simply aren't clear. Worse still, some of these are subjective decisions, so we can look at the same incident and come to differing conclusions.

Phase of play - when is going too far back, when is too little? The definition is unclear and in a real life setting, I can see the arguments for both sides. If a critical incident in Phase 1 is not detected that directly led to Phase 2 happening and a goal, anyone will feel aggrieved. Moreover, how one sees what is a phase may differ. There's too much subjectivity.

Is the tech there? Not quite. For offside, the need to find the precise moment the ball is released, draw lines, angles. All these are manually done too.

For fouls and handballs, the slow-mo, freeze frames takes context out. It errs more than helps the judgement.

Impact? Slows the game down too much and spoils the fun of goals.

- Penalty decisions -
Is there a need? Yes, this is something that we all like to cry foul about when it goes against us and say we didn't see it when it goes with us.

Are the rules clear? No, as above, many times, this can be a subjective decision. How much contact is too much or strong? When is it a handball and when a ball too hand? When is grappling within reasonable levels and when it isn't and what happens when both players are grappling each other?

Is the tech there? Yes it is, we can all see what's going on.

Impact? Slows the game down and we are not any closer to better decisions.

Is the implementation sound? Not at all! As above, issues of phase of play, clarity of rules, subjectivity of decisions, slow-mo and frame freezes.

- Direct red -card incidents -
Is there a need? Yes, since it has such a huge impact.

Are the rules clear? I would hope so! You headbutt someone, you are off. You engage in serious foul play, you are off. But what if you accidentally followed through? Maybe the rules are clear, but how VAR is used in such instances has made the rules unclear.

Is the tech there? We would think so.

Impact? The fact that we are still debating if the red card should have been, tells us all we need to know.

Implementation sound? Not at all. How should the replays be shown, should there be slow-mo, is the replay showing enough context, all these are either missing or inconsistently applied.

- Mistaken identity -
Is there a need? Yes, it makes the refs look silly when everyone on TV can see the wrong person getting booked.

Are the rules clear? I hope so! Just card the right person.

Is the tech there? Yes, has been around since TV resolution is clear enough.

Impact? Card and send off the right person, can be done by the 4th official. Minimum disruption.

Implementation sound? Haven't seen an issue yet.

= Outstanding VAR issues =
Some questions persist:
- So who is the real decision maker? the on-field ref or VAR?
- Is VAR supposed to assist or re-referee?

= Humble reflections =
My take is for VAR to work
- the rules must be clear and for some incidents, they have messed up so much that even VAR can't save it. So unless the rules are cleaned up, VAR is of no help.

- the tech must be there to do the job right and fast so that football can remain a fast flowing game that sends euphoria when a goal is scored.

- the implementation must be sound in areas of i) scope, ii) clear decision maker and making process, iii) clear communications, iv) minimal delay to the flow of the game.

VAR was brought in almost to eliminate subjectivity and human error (or at least that's what they promised, though they have been changing stance recently). But for now, it has neither the rules, tech, nor implementation to achieve those lofty goals and it is impacting the joy and fun of watching a game, especially when goals are scored.

= Humble suggestions =
- the on-field ref calls for it, except for mistaken identity, hence authority and decision is with on-field ref and VAR doesn't interfere with the game or re-referee the game.

- reasons on-field ref may call on VAR is because he felt he missed something because he was too far, the game was too fast, or his view was blocked.

1) Goals - don't use it for now until rules are clear or clearer and tech can do what it's meant to do, especially for offside.

2) penalty decisions - don't use it for now, clean up the rules first.

3) direct red-card incidents - implement it such as - full speed, no slow-mo, no freeze frame, angle the ref 1st saw it, angle that the ref may not have seen, 10s before the contact and 10s after at most 2 replays, make a decision. And the VAR ref should just say clearly what to look out for, rather than suggesting what the offence was (e.g., check to see if he hand balled on the line vs did you see his hand? Did you see that contact? i think he hand balled; check to see if there was serious foul play vs see the studs, see where it landed, it's high isn't it)

4) mistaken identity - just send off the right person

- since only #3 and #4 are VAR-able for now, perhaps the 4th official will be the one to review these and feed the images?

Probably there are still things to think through, but these are what I have for now.

Written by sgynwa November 17 2023 18:40:29