VAR: Luis Suárez episode throws doubt on system's transparency
When it comes to VAR, that Luis Suárez incident against Leganés really was all we needed. Images have finally emerged that show beyond any doubt that the Barcelona forward fouled Iván Cuellar: he strikes the keeper's right hand when it is already on the ball, and said ball then flies into the net. Didn't the VAR team see this angle? It certainly didn't appear in the live broadcast, or in the highlights provided by LaLiga to the media. It was discovered by beIN Sports in the United States, before being sent on by persons sympathetic to Leganés and ending up on social media and the news. It spread like wildfire from yesterday lunchtime on, causing yet more ignominy for a system already surrounded by question marks.
We now have a conclusive angle - no thanks to LaLiga...
I must confess that, the first time I saw it, it looked to me like Suárez had got to the ball first, then collided with Cuéllar simply as a result of his natural momentum. So I felt it was a goal. Watching and re-watching the replays, though, I started to have doubts. Just as it was on the street, opinion was divided in the Diario AS newsroom yesterday morning. Given that VAR is only there to be used for clear and obvious errors, that in itself should, in theory, serve to vindicate the video assistant's decision not to ask the referee out on the pitch to take another look at it. But that was before it came to light, courtesy of a source outwith LaLiga, that there is an angle that leaves no room for doubt: the goal shouldn't have stood.
There have already been plenty of issues with VAR in LaLiga, brought about by the fact that it has stuck its beak into too many trivialities. Then there was the hoo-ha over that Vinicius penalty non-award (see also: 'The VAR system feels the impact of the Real Madrid juggernaut'). Now this. For me, the worst thing about it is that the images were brought into the public domain not by LaLiga, but from elsewhere; that has led to justified doubts about the transparency of the video-ref system. We'd been calling for greater detail in the highlights LaLiga send the media every matchday (in exchange for good money, by the way); however, this goes a step beyond that. This leaves you wondering: Who watches the watchmen?