VAR remains controversial amongst European fans

Football

Five years after its introduction, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) remains one of football's most controversial topics.

While statistics say the sport has gained fairness, most fans in European leagues draw a more controversial picture.

In a recent survey by Sport magazine Kicker, 70.2 percent of the 36,000 surveyed German fans say football has lost main parts of its emotionality and regard the implementation as poorly executed.

In the English Premier League, only one-third of supporters voted in favor of the VAR and say the new tool improved competition, according to a survey by BBC sports that covered 2,500 fans.

The German fan association "ProFans" said the minor improvement regarding fairness stands in no relation to the drop and loss of emotions in the arenas and in front of television sets.

A majority of fans demanded to skip the VAR and return to what they call the pure football experience of the past, including cases of apparent injustice.

The often-delayed celebration of scored goals is vanishing as a significant part of football's values and attractiveness.

Fans complain about the annoying time frame until decisions are made. Many say that while only a few seconds or minutes pass, the break feels like an eternity and only second-hand emotions are left after in case a goal finds approval.

As a fact, decisions took 57 seconds on average in the first two VAR seasons but increased in the 2021-2022 campaign to 74 seconds.

In international comparison, the German leagues seem to come off rather good. "But us referees can understand that things feel like ages for fans, players, and coaches," FIFA referee Deniz Aytekin confirmed.

The German referee said reliability must come before promptness.

To at least speed up off-side decisions, a semi-automatic system has been tested in the UEFA Supercup final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt. The technology is planned to be used at the 2022 Qatar World Cup and reduce decision time to only 25 seconds.

Several drastic cases jeopardize fans' and players' acceptance.

Former England international Garry Lineker sarcastically commented on a German league game between Mainz and Freiburg in April 2018.

While teams had entered the locker room at halftime the referee called both teams back to carry out a delayed penalty decision.

Lineker called the procedure "VARcical" mixing the words VAR and farcical.

2017 Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann spoke about "five hours and 34 minutes" until the VAR revealed that "it was off-side by one millimeter."

German referee boss Lutz Michael Frohlich said the procedure met current rules but is contrary to the basic ideas of spontaneity and emotions.

Statistics say the number of wrong decisions has decreased since referees take more time to investigate. According to the German football governing body DFB, there were 19 false decisions out of 111 investigations that took 54 seconds in the 2018-2019 season, while the number was reduced to six out of 116 in the 2021-2022 season with 20 more seconds spent.

Current Bundesliga players demand to increase the VAR's competence by including former players in the VAR personnel.

The German association announced to increase in the number of cameras in use and reduce interventions in minor cases such as a false throw-in.

Despite increased efforts, controversial opinions seem to survive as not only referee Aytekin

 

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