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Is VAR ruining football?

By Zhao Manfeng | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-12-08 10:21
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Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their first goal with Joao Felix and Bernardo Silva during a Group H match against Ghana at the FIFA World Cup at Stadium 974, Doha, Qatar,November 24, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

While the remaining eight teams of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar compete in the quarter-finals, it is worth noting that it is not only soccer that has captured the world's attention, but also the video assistant referee technology.

Like it or loathe it, the VAR is a part of football games today.

Many football fans question whether the system made the game better or if it added unnecessary layer of complication to the beautiful game, especially this time in Qatar, as a number of controversial decisions were made involving VAR- it slows down the game, offside law sometimes becomes rigid.

The introduction of the VAR means top-level football is now far more prone to stoppages and delays with the on-field referee often waiting for decisions to be made by those located in offices often far away from the stadiums themselves.

Actually, the use of video match officials (VMOs) in football was included in the 2018/2019 edition of the Laws of the Game and was already used at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Since then, the system has been implemented in over 100 competitions worldwide.

Despite criticisms, FIFA deemed VAR's debut to be a success, with referee committee head Pierluigi Collina claiming that 99.3 percent of "match-changing" decisions were called correctly at the World Cup - "very, very close to perfection". Without VAR, referees called 95% of incidents correctly.

Not only football, sport tech to support a referee's decision making is widely adopted by other major sports in professional and Olympic games, to assist referees to making the correct decisions.

For example, tennis and cricket incorporated hawk-eye into the umpiring actor-network, the NBA has long used instant replay and other high-tech aids to make sure players are shooting within the time allotted by the shot clock in order for the referees to make the right call.

We should admit that sports tech is still far from perfect in the field of sports events. People's sentiments are not towards those technologies themselves, but the current shortcomings of the implementation of the technology.

The controversies in the football field are not caused by VAR alone as there are too many uncertain factors on the court, which is a part of the game drama. For example, the penalty kick in the penalty area is judged in a variety of situations.

Fairness and consistency should not be a zero-sum option. Efforts should be made to further improve efficiency and reducing interference for beautiful games. 

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