Last weekend, an interesting tournament final was played in preparation for the FIFA WorldCup next year in Russia. Called the Confederation Cup and played between national teams who recently either became world or regional champion.
And for the first time on a big FIFA tournament, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used to prevent referees from missing major fouls but also to help checking off-sides, which player did what, or unclear corner kicks situations. You would expect that when the referee gets such a VAR call and viewing the replay in slow motion, it would either lead to a red card or no card at all. No VAR calls are made for yellow card situations, as it just would make things too complicated.
Recent research commissioned by FIFA shows that referees watching things in slow motion are faster in pulling a red card because things seem to be much clearer all of a sudden. Well, not last night. The referee clearly missed an elbow boxing hook and was told by his VAR to check the video replay. He did and walked over to the innocent looking player but reached for his wrong pocket and pulled a yellow card, leaving most TV spectators in shock. Clearly a red card should have been given. Especially after watching the replay. The fouling player almost broke his opponent’s jaw bone, totally on purpose.
The danger of using VAR’s is that most fouls in slow motion just look more serious than in real time and in fast paced action. As amateur referees we don’t work with video in my games, so I should decide in split second anyway. And you can be wrong sometimes. Colleague referees and football commentators last night tweeted mostly about the fact that referees tend to ask advice for crucial fouls where the obvious direct call would suffice. But with the VAR looking over their shoulder, they seem to want to stay on the safe side. Thanking them for their advice and still take the wrong decisions after watching the replay. Hard to grasp. Work to do for the FIFA referee committee!