Football: Hotly disputed decisions put video technology under fire

Referee Milorad Mazic ended up cautioning Chile's Gonzalo Jara (No. 18) after a video review of his challenge on Germany's Timo Werner.
Referee Milorad Mazic ended up cautioning Chile's Gonzalo Jara (No. 18) after a video review of his challenge on Germany's Timo Werner.PHOTO: REUTERS

ST PETERSBURG • Fifa's controversial video assistant referee (VAR) technology was once again under the spotlight on Sunday.

Chile's Gonzalo Jara remained on the pitch despite landing an elbow in German striker Timo Werner's face during a second-half challenge in the Confederations Cup final.

The foul was brought to the attention of the Serbian referee, Milorad Mazic, who reviewed the footage from the touchline but only cautioned Jara.

Former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore tweeted: "Should have been a red for Jara. Wonder if the pause gave the ref the thought 'let's keep 11 v 11 in a final'. Can't be anything else!"

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Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon said the system was a "shambles", saying on ITV: "If you look at sports that use VAR, we're the laughing stock."

The system involves two video assistant referees watching the action remotely and then drawing the match referee's attention to officiating mistakes.

It was not the first controversy stemming from the use of VAR at the tournament. During Germany's 3-1 group-stage win against Cameroon, referee Wilmar Roldan needed two reviews to send off the correct Cameroon player.

Chile were also denied a legitimate-looking goal after video review in their 2-0 group-stage win against Cameroon, and it was again used at the end of the same match to overturn a linesman's offside call and award Chile a goal.

The VAR has been criticised for the time needed to make decisions. There has also been debate about which circumstances it should be used for as some close calls are decided without consulting it .

In the group stage, six "game-changing decisions" were made using VAR, with another 29 "major incidents" - according to Fifa head referee Massimo Busacca. That equates to 35 times it was used in 12 games, noted the BBC.

There were occasions where the technology proved beneficial. For instance, Pepe thought he had given Portugal the lead in their opening game with Mexico, but the referee ruled it out correctly for offside after consulting the VAR.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has signalled that he is in favour of introducing VARs at next year's World Cup, although he conceded the system needs to be improved.

"Nothing is standing in the way of using VARs (at the World Cup)," he said. "So far it has been successful. We are learning, we are improving, we are continuing the tests.

"We need to work still on some of the details, on the communication and the speed of the decisions being taken."

Football's law-making body, Ifab, is expected to decide next March whether to allow VARs to become part of the game on a permanent basis.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'Hotly disputed decisions put video technology under fire'. Print Edition | Subscribe