VAR experiment goes awry with allegations of bias

Accusations of impropriety have cost Hellmut Krug, head of the VAR system in the German Bundesliga, his job after the Schalke fan was deemed to have influenced penalty decisions in the club's favour.
Accusations of impropriety have cost Hellmut Krug, head of the VAR system in the German Bundesliga, his job after the Schalke fan was deemed to have influenced penalty decisions in the club's favour.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BERLIN • Bundesliga fans are demanding the end of video assistant referee (VAR) testing in Germany as the system's German league chief was replaced on Monday amid accusations of influencing matches.

The VAR is being trialled this season in Italy and Germany with football's governing body Fifa yet to decide whether it will be used at next June's World Cup in Russia.

In Germany, the VAR experiment has sparked controversy and debate with Cologne, the centre where all scenes are reviewed, widely blamed for unfavourable rulings.

Judging by the fans' banners at top-flight grounds around Germany at the weekend, most supporters want it to be scrapped immediately.

On Monday, magazine Kicker ran the headline Only Losers: Irritation, Sanctions, Wrong Decisions on its cover.

The VAR system sparked serious accusations on Sunday which cost Hellmut Krug, the head of the VAR system, his role.

Germany's biggest-selling newspaper Bild claimed he twice influenced penalty decisions in favour of Schalke, whom he supports, during their 1-1 league draw with Wolfsburg a week ago.

Schalke took the lead in the Oct 28 fixture from the spot when Thilo Kehrer was adjudged to have been brought down in the area. Later in the match, the defender handled the ball in his box, but VAR was not called upon.

"I believe that we have the wrong people in Cologne," said Augsburg sports director Stefan Reuter.

Krug vehemently denied the accusations but the German Football Association (DFB) moved swiftly on Monday to remove him as head of the project. Former top referee Lutz Michael Frohlich has replaced Krug, pledging "transparency in the procedures".

Last week, the DFB called for the VAR to intervene more during matches, even if the on-field referee did not commit an obvious error, which was met with protests from the clubs.

"We should only need the video assistant in a situation which is really crucial to the game," said Borussia Monchengladbach's director of sport Max Eberl.

Jupp Heynckes, coach of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich, agreed, suggesting football would be otherwise "diluted".

Fans complain that VAR interventions spoil the flow of the game. It often takes minutes for decisions to be made, which leads to disgruntlement at Bundesliga grounds when the referee signals that the VAR is checking a situation.

Gladbach coach Dieter Hecking does not expect the system to still be in use after next month.

"The VAR is good for football, but I dare to suggest that it will be canned in the winter break," he said. "It seems we are doing everything to ensure it doesn't have a chance."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2017, with the headline 'VAR experiment goes awry with allegations of bias'. Print Edition | Subscribe