After the arbitrations at Vizela-Benfica and FC Porto-Gil Vicente, Pinto da Costa, president of FC Porto, called this Sunday for the end of the video referee (VAR), considering that the blue and white club has been harmed against rivals. “End with VAR”, he fired, in a thesis different from that defended by PÚBLICO specialist, Pedro Henriques.
With the tool introduced in 2017 in Portuguese football, the VAR, watching the game using dozens of cameras, can call the field referee to correct wrong decisions. And when you don’t call? And when it calls wrongly? What about when the referee refuses VAR “advice”? In these cases, problems arise.
Check out the current panorama of VAR in Portugal, what problems it has had, what challenges it faces and what developments are being “cooked”.
Does VAR eliminate errors?
No. The premise of VAR is not to correct errors, but to correct “clear and obvious errors”. Decisions that the images unequivocally prove to be wrong must justify the VAR’s action, recommending the field referee to correct the decision or, if he so wishes, go and see the images for himself, on a monitor next to the pitch, and decide whether to maintain or corrects the initial decision.
Still, the role of VAR is and will continue to be performed by one person – who is therefore subject to errors, even though they have the images.
Can VAR act on dubious bids?
No. While the concept of “clear and obvious error” is not objective – what is “clear and obvious” for one person may not be “clear and obvious” for another –, the idea is that only absolutely wrong decisions presuppose the VAR’s action .
This is and will continue to be the main focus of controversy: it is not that the VAR does not identify errors, but, many times, it considers that it is not a clear enough error for it to be able to correct the field referee. And everyone goes home knowing they missed a decision, but powerless to bypass VAR protocol.
Can VAR reverse any wrong decision?
No. In addition to the premise of a “clear and obvious error”, VAR can only act in four areas: penalty kicks (for example, mismarked or unmarked infractions), direct red cards (wrongly shown or not shown), goal situations (by example there is an offense before a goal) and misidentification of players (the referee showing a card to the wrong player, for example).
Who can be VAR?
At the moment, in Portugal, the role of VAR is performed by those who have had specific training for this: we are talking about referees C1 (first category), C2 (second category) and some former referees who wanted to embrace this career.
The possibility of the VAR career being open to other referees, in order to choose the best ones, has already been discussed. At this point in time, a competent field official may not necessarily be a capable VAR – and vice versa. For now, it will continue to be like this.
Can a referee refuse a VAR recommendation?
Yes. In cases of factual incidents (such as offside), the referee generally accepts the VAR indication. In interpretation moves, the arbiter is challenged to view the move on a monitor and can then correct his initial decision. Or keep it.
Could it be the field referee asking to see pictures?
Yes. The VAR protocol foresees that the field referee may initiate the communication, asking to go and see images of a move that raised doubts. Still, the vast majority of reviews are done in the VAR-referee rather than referee-VAR sense.
Can we hear the communications between the VAR and the referee?
No. At this time, communication between the referee and the VAR is not public. Even so, FIFA and the International Board (commission that draws up the Laws of the Game) are already open so that the public can hear the communication – as happened, as a test, in the Club World Cup.
This plan would not eliminate errors, but it would allow, according to supporters of the measure, greater transparency – players, coaches, managers, supporters and the press could know why the VAR and the referee decided in the X or Y way. clubs are not interested in that.
Are other improvements being considered?
Yes. One of the most obvious measures is the possibility of a second yellow card, and consequent red card, being the target of VAR action, something that is currently not allowed.
Another measure, perhaps less likely, is that the area of action of the VAR be expanded, so that it is not limited to “clear and obvious errors”. The idea would be to give VAR an opening to call the field referee in cases of doubt. The referee could review the footage and take responsibility for the decision. Bugs would certainly decrease, but the time lost in revisions would increase exponentially, because there would be more revisions per game. Between the balance of pros and cons will come the decision of who is in charge of the rules of football.