VAR: Consistency and Transparency
Samar Devraj and Atharva Raje
The absence of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Manchester United’s crucial Carabao cup win over Everton resulted in a lucky escape for marksman Edinson Cavani, who was caught amidst a heated encounter with opposition centre half, Yerry Mina. The United forward held Mina’s throat for an extended period of time, before dropping the defender to the floor: an incident which would have seen a straight red card under the influence of VAR. However, as Cavani’s last-minute wonder strike before stoppage time proved instrumental for the Red Devils’ win, the presence of VAR could have certainly changed the outcome of the match.
In a game where United were our best bets, the inadequacy of VAR in cup football makes us question the frequency of unnoticed pivotal moments which could aid the match’s ‘underdogs’. Such circumstances highlight the ever increasing necessity of VAR in cup fixtures. As a majority of the teams playing in the lower divisions of English football don’t have the resources to adopt VAR, the England FA should start investing in the required technology for specific neutral stadiums; this would reduce club costs, level the playing field for both sides and curb the prevalence of situations that may alter the fixture’s course drastically.
While VAR still needs to be implemented consistently across all major football cups and leagues, the actual referees behind the technology need to also be more consistent with their decision-making. This would reduce the number of subjective “human error” decisions which have caused controversies all over the internet.
An example of one of the incidents was a penalty appeal by Harry Maguire against Cezar Azpilicueta, when Manchester United played Chelsea in the Premier League this season. The English centre-back was seen grappling with the Spanish defender, before pulling him to the floor, which should have been a clear penalty. However, in a match where the use of VAR could have given Chelsea the advantage they deserved, the match officials chose not to reward the penalty, even after reviewing the incident repeatedly through VAR. This showed how the referees’ subjective reasoning proved to be an obstacle towards a fair decision, a decision that has been made in countless previous matches.
Incidents like these have emphasised the need for consistency in referee decision-making, and in order to eliminate the bias in these decisions, referees must have clarity over rules regarding foul-play and other on-pitch situations which need human opinions, and can’t be solved simply by using technology.
When asked about how VAR could be improved, Alan Shearer has suggested that fans should be able to hear what the match referee is hearing from VAR officials. Shearer’s opinion has gained the support of football enthusiasts like us, and we agree that the application of VAR to football can be made more effective by increasing the transparency of communication between the officials during game-changing scenarios.
A potent solution for the situation would be to apply VAR in an analogous manner to that in cricket, where third umpire decisions can be heard by the entire crowd; imitating this process would reassure us anxious fans by making us feel involved. Using this method would inform not only fans, but also the players on the pitch to help them understand the reasoning behind particular decisions. Furthermore, the transparency of VAR could give the players a constructive insight on their errors, so that they wouldn't repeat these lapses in the future.
To summarise, while the implementation of VAR has certainly helped technical, fine-point decision-making, the technology must still be used consistently in every major league, by referees in a transparent, yet unbiased manner.
Edinson Cavani's clash with Yerry Mina
Credits: Inside Express
Harry Maguire gripping Cezar Azpilicueta, with no penalty rewarded even after a VAR review
Credits: The Sun
Third Umpires communicating with the on-field umpires
Credits: Cricket Country
On field umpires giving their collective decision after thorough discussion with the third umpires