Think back a year ago, the sun was shining, the World Cup was on and we slowly but surely heard the sounds of “Football’s coming home” for it to eventually not come home. While the competition was amazing there was one thing that stood out in everyone’s mind…VAR. Since then we have seen technology play a massive part in the spectacle of the game, whether that’s the long delays, the swings in decisions most of the time nobody has a clue what’s going on.
With tonight’s big Champions League Final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs one things for sure, technology is going to have a big part to play. So what exactly is VAR?
What is Video Assistant Referee or VAR?
Ok, so let’s start with the basics here. VAR is made up of a team of three who’s job it is to work together to review decisions made by a match referee through video replays. Nice and simple really.
Each team is to be made up of a current/former referee, an assistant and a video operator. Rather than being touchside and the fourth official, these guys will be in the safety of a nice warm room full of video equipment for them to review any of the four following incidents:
- Goals or violations in the play prior to the goal
- Red Cards
- Mistaken identity when awarding a card
A referee will still have the overall power though as for a decision to be overturned it will have to be a “clear error”.
The process for reviewing a decision can work in two ways; either the referee can request a review after making a decision or the VAR team can recommend one. This is where it get’s a bit sticky for me, when reviewing an incident made by the VAR team, the ref will watch the incident themselves on the touchline. We have seen in Champions League games this season that can both add to the spectacle and really confuse people. The difference between something like this at home or in the stadium must be incredible:
Genuinely sorry that’s not in English, but you get my point. At home we see the replays, we can debate as to if we are experts and talk about the natural shape and all that bs while waiting on a decision. In the stadium, however, fans see a ref at a monitor and they have no idea why. I personally think taking a leaf from other sports and using the big screens in the stadium would be a better idea. Fans can see the incident for themselves, the delay in play wouldn’t feel the same as players and fans alike view the tape and everyone feels better about the referee decision, but hey what would I know.
Goal line technology
Anyone who is a Man City or Liverpool can tell you how close a game of football can be. This season as an example, the picture in the image above, that looks over the line right? Wrong, the ball was all but 11mm over. The system used here is called Hawk-Eye
The Hawkeye system is actually used in a range of sports such as tennis, cricket, football and most recently GAA. Just ask any Kilkenny man how much they covet Hawkeye since it denied Tipperary an All Ireland in 2014.
In essence, it uses a series of complicated computer systems to visually track the trajectory of a ball and then display a record of its statistically most likely path as a moving image or GIF. Developed by Dr Paul Hawkins in the UK, Hawkeye was originally created in 2001 and was first used by Channel 4 during a test match between Pakistan and England.
This technology has also been used in Tennis, where a player gets three views per game if they feel an important shot was in or out. The TMO in rugby in some countries such as France also has such access to this piece of kit in order to decipher in a moment’s notice whether or not to award a try. It’s been used in soccer for the last number of years and simply if the ball goes over the line, the referee’s watch confirms it.
So technology has started playing a huge part in the sport and tonight is set to be no different. Since the adaption of gadgetry in the game, we have seen how different things can be. But that got us thinking, what big moments in the history of the game could have been different with technology.
Top 5 moments that could have been different with VAR or GLT.
Tottenham Hotspurs Ghost Goal
It remains a classic Premier League moment although it didn’t have a huge influence on the table come the end of the campaign. United (and everyone else) were blitzed by Jose Mourinho’s debut season and his Chelsea side won the title at a canter – twelve points ahead of Arsenal and a whopping eighteen ahead of United. Spurs meanwhile finished ninth, three points shy of a Uefa Cup place. Simple Goal Line Technology would have solved that. Maybe Spurs will get that big slice of luck back tonight?
Thierry Henry Hand of God
It was a heroic Irish performance that counted for nothing at the Stade de France in Paris where the referee’s failure to spot Thierry Henry’s use of his hand when setting up the night’s decisive goal for William Gallas ended the visitors’ hopes of making it to South Africa next summer. Really the less said about this the better, in his position we would all do the same but still with VAR it never would have stood.
Frank Lampard Vs Germany
What a hit, almost a shame it wasn’t counted..almost, they might have actually gone on to win the World Cup that year. It was probably the moment the push for Goal Line Technology became a thing.
Diego Maradona Vs England
England had rotten luck before technology didn’t they. The Hand of God is one of the most iconic moments in football, with VAR we would never have had this exact moment. Debate that amongst yourselves.
South Korea Vs Italy 2002
South Korea’s entire 2002 World Cup campaign can be called controversial but the most glaring match in the tournament that was evidence of this was the match against Italy in the Round of 16.
After the match was surprisingly drawn at one after added time, Italy was denied what appeared to be a perfectly good goal for offsides. Shortly afterward, Francisco Totti was given his second yellow card of the match for what was thought by the referee to be a dive.
However, replays showed that Totti appeared to trip on his own feet and wasn’t diving as originally thought by the referee.