Lawmakers are going to scoop on VAR with a new rule that lets supporters hear the referee’s conversation
This week, the legislators of football are sitting in a five-star hotel and spa in Belfast around a table and deciding whether or not to turn on the light.
When VAR was brought into the Premier League, it came with the promise that it would benefit the game. Referees would make more correct decisions, clubs would avoid the rough end of wrong calls with so much at stake.
But in this pursuit of justice through a microscope, the lifeblood of football was left in the dark.
Olivier Giroud is one of the various players with goals elaborated by controversial VAR calls
VAR has turned watching football into a turgid experience for fans who spend a lot of money following their team throughout the country.
‘F *** VAR’ chants are now a weekly staple of the supporters songbook at Premier League matches because goals are excluded by an armpit after minutes spent watching players kicking their heels while the referee with his finger in his ear is waiting to hear the verdict of a colleague miles away in a dark room and draw lines on a frozen photo.
Fans have no idea what is going on in addition to a message on the large screens to kindly inform them that a VAR assessment is underway for a possible fine. They can’t hear anything, they can’t see anything. They don’t know if they can celebrate or feel sorry.
If VAR is to be saved, it must take the fans out of the shadows and be part of it. And finally the dimmer can be switched on.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) meets Saturday in Holywood for their annual general meeting. It is here, at the Culloden Estate Hotel and Spa, that any changes to the rules are made.
Introducing VAR has led to a wave of very marginal offside goals that are not allowed this season
It is not surprising that VAR is high on the agenda. And they will have the opportunity to vote through changes to broadcast the discussions of the VAR and the officials in the stadium and to show replays on the screen.
This must be allowed. In cricket, the third referee reviews are broadcast around the ground and on television. Spectators at rugby matches can tune in to TMO reviews via an earpiece.
The current laws of IFAB prohibit the discussions between the referee and his officials from being broadcast in the stadium. Originally they did not want to change their attitude. Their opinion was that having their dialogue around the stadium put pressure on officials even more.
They have since changed their music. International federations, particularly Australia and America, where their major sports are used to opening video review systems, have called for the ban to be lifted. Australia has even submitted a three-step plan for its implementation.
Lukas Brud from IFAB confirmed that changes to VAR would be considered extensively this week
IFAB has listened, has cast its own gaze on how cricket and rugby broadcasts work so well, and are ready to change anything.
“We looked at how we can improve communication with fans in the stadium and behind the TV,” IFAB Secretary Lukas Brud told the mail on Sunday. “Football is entertainment and we need to look at what competitions need to accept VAR with the public.”
Broadcasters already have access to the VAR discussions. It’s time for fans to listen too. Repetitions of important incidents are shown after assessments. Show them while they happen.
Any change must be approved by vote. There are eight in total. Fifa has four and each of the Home Nations has one each. A proposal needs six to be transposed into legislation.
This would be a huge step in the right direction for VAR. But only a scoop. Others are also needed, especially on offside, rolling play frame by frame, drawing lines, excluding targets by an armpit with technology that cannot be certain.
Those changes will have to wait. No changes may be made to the offside legislation or how VAR assesses it. And certainly not Arsene Wenger’s desire to completely rewrite the law.
Part of the problem with VAR is the lack of communication with the crowd about decisions
Fifa’s new head of global development, which will be at the meeting on Saturday, wants the law to be changed so that instead of putting a player offside if a goal from a part of his body is ahead of the last defender, they stay on for as long as a part is flat or behind.
The aim of Olivier Giroud that was rejected against Manchester United would be given according to Wenger’s law.
Wenger wants to return the advantage to the attacker. In the first 26 games so far, VAR excluded 42 goals that were originally awarded. Only nine that were not allowed in the field were then given.
Trying to switch is admirable, even if it would lead to more problems than it solves, which may not be the one that it was dreamed of to solve. VAR still tormented the dotted line, just a few feet further back.
Defending, especially with set pieces, would become impossible. Teams should sit further and further back. That’s not good for football. It is also not the case that a new law, which would dramatically affect every level of football, would be forced through it due to problems with VAR in the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger’s proposed change of rules regarding offside legislation will not be implemented this year
As much as Wenger may have said: “it is time to do this very quickly”, the change will not come on time for Euro 2020 or for the following season. IFAB’s own protocols do not allow rules changes to be made that were not discussed during the annual business meeting in December.
The FA is also supposed to have been reluctant to allow any change without a trial period, while the Premier League referee body was concerned that their linesman would have to retrain completely in no time.
Wenger was able to submit his proposal for discussion at the meeting, but it cannot be voted into law at this stage.
The Premier League has since discussed the use of thicker lines to assess offside to build in a margin of error.
Elsewhere there is a clarification of the controversial new handball law that says that a goal cannot stand if it hits the arm of an attacker – even unintentionally – in the run-up to a goal.
IFAB will make it clear that the rule applies not only to the goal scorer, but to every attacking player.