VAR has had a positive impact, but still needs to bed in
VAR's first year in Spain, which Spanish refereeing chiefs offered a public review of yesterday, has seen its fair share of controversy. But taken as a whole, it's been a force for good. Everyone will have their quibbles, but there's no denying that the system has corrected dozens of errors which, without it, would have affected results. It's not perfect, and never will be; but it has solved issues. Moreover, it has given rise to trends conducive to a healthier game: this season, there have been more penalties, more red cards and fewer incidents of dissent than last term. Major offences have been more comprehensively clamped down on, and players are starting to see they're now on rather shakier ground when they question decisions.
Question of when VAR should intervene still needs ironing out
VAR needs to bed in and have its kinks ironed out, of course. The video assistants, who are charged with correcting or upholding the match referee's decisions, haven't always been up to the mark. It's a new role they still need to get used to, and I'd say the idea put forward by Spain's VAR supremo Carlos Velasco Carballo, of using ex-refs trained specifically for the job, isn't a bad one at all. Tasking the referees' own colleagues with overruling them just doesn't seem to be workable. It carries the danger of influencing VAR's implementation, not least because what is most unclear about the system is when it should intervene. What exactly constitutes a clear and obvious error in each official's eyes? That's where inconsistencies have crept in.
It's tough, I have to say; it's a bit like playing a game of blackjack. Either you overstep the mark or you come up short. And there are different schools of thought at the highest levels of the game: if you ask FIFA's chief referees' assessor Pierluigi Collina, it's all about "minimum intervention for maximum benefit". His UEFA counterpart Roberto Rosetti, meanwhile, is keener for plenty of VAR involvement. That's partly a reflection of the governing bodies' need to argue about everything, a bit like LaLiga and the Spanish FA; but the fact remains that it's a question that has to be resolved. We'll settle on the best approach in time. VAR is here to stay, but is still bedding in. It's had a positive effect, but will have to get better.