a look at la liga

A glimpse into the future

Felix Zwayer gives the goal after consulting the VAR.
Felix Zwayer gives the goal after consulting the VAR. / EFE
  • Video refereeing righted two wrongs this week; but will it catch on?

This week’s friendly game between France and Spain, which was equally as meaningful as meaningless, gave us a glimpse into the future. You’ll have to get used to the term VAR; very soon it will be part of the football lexicon and he (or she) will be one of the most important characters in the stadium.

VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee, the expert who sits up in the stands armed with a digital replay machine and who will assist on contentious decisions.

As Antione Griezmann headed off in celebration, referee Felix Zwayer summoned the help of his “eye in the sky”, Tobias Stieler. At first it looked like it was for show, to impress the FIFA big wigs who were using the game as a high-profile experiment.

Lo and behold, the referee was right to ask for a second opinion as there was an offside in the goal build-up. The celebrations were halted and for once the referee and linesman were not surrounded by disgruntled footballers. If they were to surround the man responsible they would have to head into the stands to seek him out.

Later on the linesman was utterly convinced that he’d snared Gerard Deulofeu offside but the man in the middle said, “Hey, let’s impress the FIFA suits and use the technology to show how good you are.” Mr Stieler, armed with his TV technology proved the international class referee, his assistant and the naked eye wrong. “Goal” was the response and, in one fell swoop, the VAR was accepted as a necessary part of the gang.

Back in the UK, the elite officials are already getting training on the equipment in anticipation for its introduction in next season’s FA Cup and thereafter the Premier League and 2018 World Cup.

In Spain it doesn’t appear quite so clear cut. I understand they have the toys but it is not the FIFA-approved version, so you won’t be surprised to hear that it is caught up in red tape!

Some say that it takes the drama out of the game. The incidents in the France-Spain game were pretty straightforward; it took ten seconds to check out what the human eye couldn’t be certain of. The big plus for me was that it stopped the orchestrated celebrations.

Drama will come when it comes down to the referee’s interpretation of what happened. Zwayer didn’t need technology to rule that Deulofeu had been fouled in last week’s game but if he had, then that’s when we’d have seen the drama.

I’m told that the VAR is just an assistant so the referee himself must dash to the halfway line to study the TV evidence himself and make his decision. The test times for this are apparently around 35 seconds.

Once I was swayed against technology as it can only be applied to top-level games covered by a complete TV outside broadcast, with a multitude of cameras, and it took the game even further away from the grassroots. But after what I saw last week I’m converted.

I’m in, hopefully La Liga will be soon too?