After resisting the temptation to allow video replay into the sport, FIFA finally began implementing its version of replay review this year.
The Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, made its first competitive debut this summer, first in the U-20 World Cup in South Korea and the Confederations Cup in Russia.
The results, well, have been a mixed bag.
The system in the u-20 World Cup mostly went off without a hitch, as most of the calls were corrected and didn’t disrupt the game too much. But the system was a bit off at the senior level, or so it felt. The majority of the calls reviewed were corrected to be right, but there were some calls that were not changed after review, much to the bewilderment of everyone else. And then there were the card fiascos in the Mexico vs. New Zealand and Germany vs. Chile matches
But no matter these early results, the course has to be stayed by FIFA and those that control the game’s laws. This is an important and necessary addition to the sport. And for those who are worried or frustrated by it, be patient and give it time to mature.
Something has to be done
We have the technology. We still have big calls being missed. Something has to be done and soccer can’t sit on the sideline. It has to adapt to the changing times.
Also, everyone’s tired of dealing with missed calls in big moments. We’ve seen missed goals, missed penalties, missed offsides calls and missed hand balls that lead to goals (looking at you Diego Maradona). Even in the World Cup, there have been badly missed calls.
This is the sports’ chance to fix all of that. VAR will make sure those missed calls that affect games and affect champions are corrected.
For once, the leaders of the sport are being proactive. This sport that has resisted change for so long is actually doing something. That’s to be commended.
We cannot sit back and watch the game be ruined by missed callas after missed call. Not in today’s world. Will there still be some bad calls? Sure. We saw that at the Confederations Cup. But at least there’s recourse to correcting the egregious calls. And that’s what the sport needs.
It will be a big help for referees
The addition of VAR will do more than affect the game. It will also help out the referees a lot.
While there are eight set of eyeballs watching every match for bad plays and rule-breaking, there’s only one center referee who can actually make the calls. Despite doing everything he or she is taught about positioning, there are going to be plays that the referee isn’t going to see. VAR will catch those plays that happen in the blind spot.
The move to replay has helped umpires a lot in baseball. Those bang-bang plays at first base become easier when there’s replay you can go to to make sure the call on the field is correct.
Replay relaxes some of the pressure off the referees in those one or two big moments in a match. They know they can go over to a monitor and review the play from two or three angles to get the call correct. Hopefully, this leads to better referees, and everyone can agree to that.
Yes there are problems, but those can be worked out
I’ll admit that the VAR process so far isn’t perfect. The process takes a bit too long. There’s confusion amongst players, coaches and fans. And some of the calls aren’t quite getting corrected.
But I’ll also point out that no sports’ replay system is completely perfect. Tennis’ “Hawkeye” system is the best, but every other one has flaws.
Americans will remember that Major League Baseball’s roll out of replay a few years ago had its issues. It disrupted the flow of the game and took way to long to make decisions. And there were people clamoring to ax it.
But as it became more a part of the game, it got better. Replay times have come down drastically. The average replay time in 2014 was 2:07. Last year it was 1:54.
I expect something similar to happen with soccer. Although, I would prefer if a hard 60-second time limit would be instilled on the process. If a referee can’t make a decision with a minute of replays, then the call on the pitch should stand.
But outside of that change, I don’t think much needs to change. Instead, it simply needs to mature. Referees, players, coaches and fans still need to get acclimated to the new system. Right now, it’s like jumping into a pool of ice cold water. It’s insanely jarring at first, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.
That’s how it’s going to be with replay in soccer. It’s jarring right now, but in six months or a year, once the process has been really fleshed out, it’s going to be awesome and a vast improvement over what we had before.
Replay is here to stay. It just has to mature. You’re going to have to get used to that.