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VAR: Should it stay, or should it go?

The introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Football has undeniably transformed the landscape of officiating, sparking intense debates among fans, players, and pundits alike. VAR, designed to rectify clear and obvious errors made by on-field referees in critical match situations, has its proponents and critics, each presenting compelling arguments.

Proponents of VAR argue that its implementation addresses one of the longstanding issues in football: human errors that can significantly impact the outcome of a match. The technology provides a mechanism for reviewing decisions related to goals, penalties, red cards, and instances of mistaken identity. When used judiciously, VAR can contribute to a more accurate and fair adjudication of contentious situations, reducing the likelihood of a match being decided by incorrect calls.

Incidents that have shaped the discourse around VAR often involve highly consequential decisions that can sway the course of a game. Goals disallowed or awarded following VAR reviews overturned penalty decisions, or red cards rescinded are instances that draw scrutiny and appreciation. These incidents have heightened awareness about the importance of precision in officiating, leading to a greater demand for accountability in the decision-making process.

However, the criticism against VAR is equally vehement. Detractors argue that the technology has the potential to undermine the spontaneity and emotional intensity of the sport. The stoppages for VAR reviews, sometimes leading to prolonged delays, disrupt the game's natural flow and can dampen the atmosphere in the stadium. Moreover, subjective interpretations of VAR decisions and the perceived inconsistency in its application have fueled frustration among players, managers, and fans.

Instances where VAR decisions have been contentious or divisive have further fueled the debate. The subjectivity involved in determining what constitutes a "clear and obvious error" has led to varying interpretations, resulting in debates over the very essence of fair play. These incidents, replayed and analysed extensively, often lead to prolonged discussions and controversies even after the match has concluded.

While discussions about removing VAR persist, it seems more prudent to focus on improving its implementation, addressing concerns, and adapting it to the evolving landscape of football. Embracing technology for the betterment of the sport is an ongoing process, much like the evolution of online gaming experiences, which offers us a similar comparison. Just as technology has enhanced how we watch and engage with football, online gaming platforms continue to innovate, offering exciting features as seen in Pragmatic Play's Big Bass Bonanza demo, allowing players to feel part of the game to further enhance their overall participation. This approach aligns with the notion of refining and optimising technology so that it better serves the purpose it was designed for rather than scrapping it altogether.

Published by Patrick Jane