Competition
  • Champions League
  • Copa Libertadores

VAR getting bogged down in hair's-breadth offside decisions

Over the past few days, I've been moved to recall a debate I had a while ago with ex-Real Madrid and Spain coach Vicente del Bosque and Emilio Butragueño, Los Blancos' former striker-turned-director, on the then-imminent introduction of VAR. Del Bosque and I were unconvinced; Butragueño, on the other hand, argued that it was wrong that there should be incidents that the whole world could clearly see on the telly, and that the only person who did not have the luxury of a second look was the referee. It was, he felt, unfair on the officials - and wholly needless. That's why VAR was called for, he concluded. I found his argument pretty solid.

Minimum intervention, maximum benefit...

This is what VAR was meant to be for: major errors that everyone can see. The idea was to use it to clear up the types of incidents that are clear candidates for technology, and are talked about for years thereafter: Hurst's goal, Guruceta's penalty decision, Henry's handball. Minimum intervention, maximum benefit. But the reality of VAR has proved rather different. Inevitably, it has got bogged down in minute details, to the point where this week we've seen VAR intervene in hair's-breadth offside calls. I'm talking, of course, about Club Brugge and Real Madrid's first goals on Tuesday, and Valencia's at San Mamés. All a matter of millimetres.

In each case, no-one could be outraged by the match referee's decision. At such times, VAR just seems to be butting in - and drawing in offside lines that are not entirely convincing. We've already seen that the line stuck in by Mediapro in Bilbao - a course of action brought about because those in the video booth were slow about sending theirs to the broadcaster - was not the same as the official one. In every second, there are 24 TV frames. Marrying the exact 24th of a second when the ball is played with the attacker's position relative to the last man (when they're often moving in opposite directions) seems impossible to me.