The new football season has only just begun, but the VAR has already caused a lot of chaos and heated discussions. In other sports, the video referee is a resounding success. Experts from hockey, tennis and volleyball about how the VAR can work.
Coen van Bunge sighs deeply. "Why does football want to reinvent the wheel? Why don't they watch other sports?" He wonders.
Van Bunge is an international arbitrator in hockey, on the field and as a video referee. He was active at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and is present at the European Championships in Antwerp that started on Friday. "In any sport with video arbitrage, the responsibility lies with the players. Hockey, cricket, rugby, tennis, volleyball, you name it. Except in football."
"There is a man in Zeist who presses a button when he sees a tiny violation. But why intervene if the players on the field don't even think it is important? Don't do it!", The hockey referee excites himself. "If the players don't have a problem with a decision, just let it continue."
Hockey referee Coen van Bunge (left). (Photo: Pro Shots)
Discussion about VAR flares up immediately
Last weekend, in the second round of the second Eredivisie season with the VAR, the discussion about the device flared up again.
Both at Sparta-VVV-Venlo and at FC Groningen-FC Twente and Fortuna Sittard-Heracles Almelo there were errors by referees that were not corrected by the VAR or, according to some, the video arbitrator interfered with the game.
Referee boss Dick van Egmond could not all explain the dubious decisions and trainers and players denounced the role of the video referee.
Heracles players were furious with referee Kevin Blom last weekend. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Video arbitration in hockey and volleyball also had teething problems
In the early years hockey and volleyball also had teething problems. "We just started in hockey and have improved the system over the years," says Van Bunge.
"The video referee was used for the first time at the 2002 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur," he remembers. "A man looked at the images on a screen of 15 by 15 centimeters, without slow motion. In a certain match the referee gave a goal, but both teams immediately realized that it was not a valid goal. The man who was in the tropical heat looked at the small screen, had no good images of the situation and so he could not correct the referee. "
In the years that followed, video arbitrage was refined and perfected. "First a referral (a request to use the video referee, ed.) Could be requested for each action. That sometimes happened fifteen times, so that matches lasted twice as long as normal," says the hockey referee.
That has since been considerably tightened up. "Now a referral can only be requested for a penalty ball, penalty corner or a goal. Each team has one challenge, which the team loses in the event of a false protest."
Koos Nederhoed (l) as a challenge referee at an Olympic qualifying tournament in St Petersburg. (Photo: personal archive)
"See the video referee as a friend"
In 2015, a start was made on deploying the video referee in volleyball. Just like in football, the system does not yet work optimally in this sport, notes Koos Nederhoed, former international arbitrator and, since a few months ago, one of the ten so-called challenge referees that the international federation FIVB uses for large tournaments.
"Last week I was active in an Olympic qualification tournament in St Petersburg with Russia, Iran, Mexico and Cuba. Some of those countries did not know exactly how to submit a challenge and that led to chaotic situations. All players called for a challenge, but the assistant coach did not know which button to press. It took minutes for the challenge to be addressed. "
In tennis, the introduction of the Hawk-Eye system in 2007 proved a resounding success. "Tennis is much more black and white than football, for example. A ball is in or out, there is no room for interpretation," says Dries Crama, who has served as a line judge, umpire and head referee at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam for 37 years involved.
But just like in football, there was initially fear that the authority of the arbitrator would be affected. "In the beginning we had the idea Big Brother is watching you, " says Crama. "It's not nice when the HawkEye shows you are wrong in a full stadium. But soon I started to see the technology as a friend. Often the HawkEye confirms that you've seen it right, that's a huge kick. And the sport has become much fairer because of that. That's the most important thing. "
"Speed and experience video arbitrators are crucial"
"The HawkEye system is controlled by a fixed group of people who know exactly how to display the ball in question on the screen in seconds," says Crama. "It's a traveling circus. One week they are in Rotterdam, a week later they build their equipment somewhere in America. Their speed and experience are crucial. In football it would also help if you have a fixed group of video arbitrators."
Just like in tennis, volleyball teams have two challenges per set. Only if the technology shows that they are right, do they retain their ability to protest. As a result, players have to handle their challenges sparingly. In practical terms, that is also perfectly applicable in football. For example, assistant trainers can be provided with a tablet on which they can request challenges, just like in volleyball. The video referee can then immediately look at the moment.
Volleyball teams can request a challenge on a tablet. (Photo: Pr o Shots)
"The VAR must decide, not the referee"
In addition, in volleyball all decisions are shown on a large screen to the players and the public. "That way you prevent chaos on the field," says video referee Nederhoed. "It is clear to everyone what the right decision is. The decision is always taken by the VAR and not by the referee on the pitch like in football."
Another lesson from the other sports: the system is never 'finished'. In hockey, for example, there is a plan to set a maximum reflection time of ninety seconds for the video arbiter. "If you do not yet have a clear picture of the situation, then the referee has not made a clear mistake and his decision remains," said Van Bunge.
"It makes no sense to watch the repetitions for three or four minutes, then a violation only seems worse. That also applies to the VAR in football."