A LOOK AT LA LIGA
Rugby Union is a sport I've painstakingly tried to watch and enjoy without any success but my latest attempt has convinced me that football can learn from the way the odd-shaped ball game utilises the VAR.
Quite frankly I'm bored by the game but intrigued by the application of the Video Ref, the interaction and way they come to a conclusion over a decision. It's far more entertaining than the actual game!
For football to totally embrace the technology, the paying customer needs to see and hear why decisions are being debated inside the stadium.
I'm lucky that when I commentate on a Premier League game I can sometimes hear the interaction and obviously see unlimited replays on my television monitor. I can relay information to a watching audience but those inside the stadium are left clueless.
I think back to the 2006 World Cup final when Zinedine Zidane was sent off for headbutting. I was a paying punter that day and none of us inside the stadium had a clue what was going on - everyone was texting folks back home.
We need to hear the referees converse and reach the conclusion. It needs to be part of the drama of the event. You'd be particularly entertained by Premier League official Lee Mason who sounds just like the comedian Peter Kay.
If the fans could hear the debate they may be slightly more tolerant; then again, probably not!
It appears that La Liga has been slightly more accepting than the Premier League and of course Spain is into its second season now. Assessing the first campaign, referee's chief Carlos Velasco Carballo concluded: "Overall it has been very positive and we are satisfied with the performance of the referees, the correct decisions and the integration of VAR."
Nothing is perfect and decisions will remain subjective. It still comes down to human interpretation of a particular situation.
In La Liga there have been some entertaining moments. Well, entertaining unless you are a Leganés supporter. The club are demanding a replay of the game against Levante when the VAR link broke down and the fourth official had to phone his friend instead. After a short mobile call, a disputed goal to Levante was ratified.
Leganés also fell foul of the VAR when their goalkeeper Soriano saved a Sergio Ramos penalty. The replays revealed he was off his line and Real Madrid captain scored at the second attempt.
Notice the parlance. It is 'the VAR' and not just 'VAR'. It is an actual person and not some robot making the decision. Quite often the manager and players refer to VAR as some kind of footballing God that they believe exists but cannot be seen.
The upside is that players can't protest to a 'being' they cannot see; he exists in some other universe in the capital city hence player protests are significantly down. We are also told that 'simulation', aka diving, has been reduced by 68 per cent. (I have no idea how they came to a figure either!)
The Rugger fraternity is never slow to tell us how football can learn from their game and with the VAR system I have to concede. Secretly, though, I want to World Cup Final to be decided by a really contentious decision that will be disputed for decades to come.