This is a first since its inception: the media have been able to visit the operational center of Video Assistance at Arbitration.

The Professional Football League opened to the media, for the first time since its establishment a year ago, the operational center of the VAR. A place, kept secret in Paris, which centralizes through more than 60,000km of fiber cables, images of all stages of Ligue 1. Our reporter has put himself in the shoes of a man in black.

"Julien, must the goal be validated?" "Yes, Remy Cabella touches her chin and not the arm". Micro headphones on the head, two computer screens in front, two screens left to keep an eye on the live, two more on the right for the operator who provides the images. We must validate or not the goal of the player Saint-Etienne (Nantes-Saint-Etienne January 31, 2019, ed).

Hand not hand of the former striker Etienne, offside or not offside? International referee Johan Hamel asks the questions he would ask the presumed VAR referees. On the right, Simon, who is in charge of the technical aspect, proposes different angles of view to help make the decision.

"We are not there to re-arbitrate our colleague, it must be his decision," says Europe 1 Johan Hamel. Pascal Garibian is of course in this direction. "The video has to intervene if and only if the decision is clearly wrong, if the images prove irrefutably that the decision is not the right one." Our challenge for our referees is to continue to referee normally, not to not rely on the video when they make decisions. "

1min30 to validate the goal, in the standards of the LFP

In all, it took more than a minute and a half to validate, with good reason, the goal of Saint-Etienne. In real conditions, the viewing (VAR analysis with modification of the initial decision) takes on average one minute and thirty-eight seconds to the "real" referees. The viewing field (when the referee goes to see his control screen, ed), an additional minute on average.

"Less than a minute is the normal stoppage of play," recalls the French international referee Johan Hamel at Europe 1. "With the DTA (Technical Direction of the refereeing, ed), one works to optimize our Time to control a situation I understand the annoyance of the fans, but it's better to take 10, 15 seconds more times, have a complete check and make the right decision rather than go too fast and miss essential."

VAR, learning and hiccups

And despite the experience, concentration, training courses at the VAR, the referees can be wrong. After 12 days of Ligue 1 (the last was not taken into account, ed), of the 343 goals scored, 306 were entitled to control (situation is the subject of the control of the VAR without modification of the initial situation , ndlr), 11 were viewed (VAR analysis with modification of the initial decision, note) and 26 were entitled to a viewing field, so the referee. And despite that, there are failures. The latest, the penalty given to Marseille against Lyon last Sunday. Midfielder Morgan Sanson had previously touched the ball with the hand, before a player from Lyon did the same. A penalty kick was then whistled in favor of OM.

"In full transparency, the laws of the game consider that it is a hand in the offensive phase of an attacker, which must be sanctioned and the penalty should have been canceled," concedes Europe 1 the boss of the French arbitration Pascal Garibian . "This is an apprenticeship, this control of the image.In this case, the situation of the penalty was analyzed, was controlled and not reassembled.It is a complex situation.It is a plan (camera, note) that had to be found, and which unfortunately was seen far too late. "

Despite technological help, between 10 (Saturday night matches) and 17 (for posters) different cameras, human error is possible. The assistant at the VAR requires a great concentration. "From the first to the last second, the goal of the mission is to put yourself in a bubble, to be in full concentration and mindfulness to be able to intervene on situations that are not planned," says Johan Hamel. "For if we let ourselves fall asleep by the pace of the match, it is the risk of missing out on something."

The operational center kept secret

More than a year after its entry into force, the VAR is still largely perfectible. Despite the pedagogical efforts of the League and the refereeing corps, a good part of the supporters have not yet adopted it. The anti-VAR Front is heard on social networks. The statements of Pascal Garibian on Marseille penalty had a certain echo on Twitter.

Very informative afternoon at the VAR center @LFPfr. Arbitration Technical Director Pascal Garribian concedes that the penalty kick for the # OM should not have been awarded. #OMOL

- Julien Froment (@JulienFroment) November 12, 2019

In order to prevent retaliation by those who are unhappy with video assistance, the league insisted that the location of the operations center be kept confidential.