We are already eight matchdays into LaLiga, a total of 79 games (with the postponed Rayo-Athletic game still outstanding) and ahead of the second break in fixtures for national team duty it seems a good time to reflect on the impact of VAR's introduction. As yet, one fact is clear: only in three of those 79 games has the final result been affected, in terms of the points for a win, draw or loss. And, out of interest, one of those instances went the way of Real Madrid, who won at Espanyol thanks to VAR awarding a goal that had been wrongly disallowed by referee Mateu Lahoz. Among those opposed to Madrid, there had been the idea that VAR would penalise them more. We have already seen that, so far at least, this is not the case as without VAR, Madrid would lie in sixth place, not fourth.
VAR: clear and obvious only, no?
To compare this with our main reference point, the recent World Cup, what we have seen is that VAR has corrected more decisions in our league (25 times in 79 matches, 32%) than in Russia (16 in 64, 25%). I find this alarming; not in the sense that our referees are worse than those used in the FIFA showpiece (which would not be a scandal anyway, as they should be the elite) but because of what I see as excessive use. I've talked with Velasco Carballo, the former World Cup official responsible for integrating VAR into LaLiga. I always understood the video assistant as a tool to relieve the referee of flagrant errors. That Guruceta penalty, Henry's hand ball, Lampard's ghost goal... It was not for plays that were open for discussion.
LaLiga VAR needs fixed
In Spain it is not fulfilling that principle. Instead, it is being turned to for nuanced situations, and for all those that it is being used unnecessarily, in many others it is not being called on when it should be, as we saw in the Madrid derby. Thanks to Nacho Tellado, a collaborator of Spanish football show El Chiringuito, we have also discovered that it can be pretty shoddy when dealing with offside decisions. That needs to be sorted out urgently and it worries me that Tebas does not seem worried. Apart from that, it is helping to prove something many of us had suspected: that Mateu Lahoz is a showman with poor judgement. On five occasions he has had VAR to correct his mistakes. I still ask myself why we sent him to the World Cup.