Stop the reckless video-assisted refereeing experiment now | Tech News
The football World Cup is about to deploy a flawed technology that risks destroying what makes the beautiful game so great, says fan Chris Nee
Since the league debut of video-assisted refereeing, or VAR, in Australia in April 2017, a series of leagues have allowed their matches, the matches whose gravity they consider sacrosanct in other circumstances, to be fodder for a reckless experiment that deals specifically with the incidents that most affect the outcome.
The results have been disastrous. Implementation has been inconsistent and disruptive. Decisions take too long to reach, a problem often compounded by a lack of communication to supporters in the stadium.
Yet verdicts have been every bit as debatable as before, with decisions left incorrect, or, worse, incorrectly overturned. Major mistakes have happened in the very matches the technology lobby would identify as too important to not have VAR. Even supporters who back VAR do because they think it will come good, not because they believe it’s ready.
It’s none of this that exposes the folly of its use on the biggest stage of all, at the World Cup starting this week. VAR’s greatest flaw is its rationale. This is football’s latest attempt at perfection it doesn’t need, shouldn’t want and can never achieve.
VAR critics don’t oppose progress for the sake of it. We love football for its essence, for the joy it gives, not for ever more clinical policing of its details. For shades of doubt, not the tyranny of the freeze frame. VAR is incompatible with football because it’s applied to subjective in-game moments that don’t always have a right answer. For FIFA and the International Football Association Board, however, the bodies that control such things, football is too serious a business to allow for the endearing errors of sport.
It’s a losing battle. Already in the tournaments where it has been used, the idea that VAR should only be used to correct “clear and obvious error” on behalf of on-pitch officials is being abandoned in favour of over-reliance on a second opinion.
Is the juice of marginal – and debatable – improvement worth the squeeze on football’s unique character? For all its riches, all the infrastructure it commands, all the cultural value it offers, football is a game. Every once in a while we should remember how absurd it is that we take it so seriously. It’s the best game in the world, but it’s still a game. That’s precisely why it’s beautiful.
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