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LaLiga: Getting VAR right is like a game of blackjack


VAR has successfully corrected 59 decisions: 59 bad calls from which, were it not for the system, there'd have been no going back. That's its strength. Its weakness is that its mistakes are all the tougher to put up with and, above all, the question of when the video assistant is and is not supposed to flag something up to the referee is proving a major muddle. Following the maxim 'minimum interruption, maximum benefit', it's meant to be used only in a limited set of circumstances, but so far in LaLiga it has stuck its beak into a lot of trivialities. That only leaves people expecting it to look at every last debatable incident. And just as the powers-that-be seek to rein in those excesses, VAR has been hit with the Luis Suárez controversy.

The referee watches the replay of an incident in Real Valladolid and Getafe's Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg last night.
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The referee watches the replay of an incident in Real Valladolid and Getafe's Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg last night.PHOTOGENIC/PABLO REQUEJODIARIO AS

It's going to be difficult to win back public trust in a system that some had been waiting for in expectation, and others in resignation. Spanish referees' chief Carlos Velasco Carballo has the look of a blackjack player in the midst of a game in which, try as he might, the cards just won't add up. We've seen video referees overstep the mark by unnecessarily getting involved in trifling matters, and come up short by shying away from big moments that are simply crying out for their intervention, such as the Vinicius penalty incident in Real Madrid's defeat to Real Sociedad this month. It's also unclear what the criteria are for showing or not showing replays - and that is a shortcoming that merely serves to fuel sinister suspicions.

Employing ex-refs as video assistants may be a good option

Some feel the video assistant shouldn't be a current referee, because their actions may be affected by their relationship with the official out on the pitch. There are also those who have suggested turning to former players and coaches; however, they have ties to certain clubs that would only throw doubt on their impartiality. Ex-referees seem the most viable option. They'd have the advantage of coming in with a bit of distance, with fewer ties to active officials. Either way, it's about being patient and fine-tuning the when and why of VAR's interventions, with the aim of getting 21 as often as possible. If that can't be done, we'll have to change the protocol of VAR and step in more often, as AS' resident ref Eduardo Iturralde proposes.