It’s been discussed and debated long and hard but, with a seemingly positive reaction to recent trials, the introduction of a video referee to more high profile games appears almost inevitable.
After FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) agreed on the requirements of the video assistant referee (VAR), the first trial games took place in August in a match between New York Red Bulls II and Orlando City B in the third division of the United Soccer League.
The VAR experiment is based on four categories; confirmation of goals, confirmation of penalties, red card incidents and mistaken identity.
The VAR roadshow moved to Europe in September with the friendly international meeting between Italy and France in Bari.
The experiment took a significant step forward on 21 September when Anouar Kali’s name became a likely entry in a future football trivia quiz.
Kali’s claim to fame came in the official debut for a video assistant referee in a competitive game; Ajax’s 5-0 victory over Willem II in the Netherlands’ KNVB Cup.
The VAR (Pol Van Boekel) reportedly sat in a van within the confines of the Amsterdam Arena, with six TV screens at his disposal, proving his effectiveness in the second-half.
Via his headset, Van Boekel recommended to the on-pitch referee Danny Makkelie that his initial decision to give Willem’s Kali a yellow card for kicking an Ajax player’s ankle was too lenient and, moments later, the former FC Utrecht midfielder was dismissed.
The rookie VAR later commented: “I see the infringement and think – ‘that’s quite hefty’. I watched it again and after a few seconds I already said that this was 100% a sending-off.”
Further trials are to take place around the globe (possibly in FA Cup ties) with a decision expected by the IFAB in 2018 or 2019. Now the ball has started rolling with a largely positive reaction from the relevant powers, it does seem to be only a matter of time before the VAR becomes a regular match day feature.
Overall, the argument is split into two camps. The positive aspect is to over-rule obvious game-changing errors. Many will recall the Thierry Henry goal against Ireland in a 2009 World Cup qualifier when a handball offence by the mercurial Frenchman was clearly evident to the TV audience, but out of view of referee Martin Hansson.
The more debatable point is the delay that may occur when reaching the less obvious decisions. The natural flow of football is what sets it apart from most other sports and it is clear to most observers that regular extended breaks in play would change the outstanding appeal and structure of the game. Until those doubts are allayed, many will fear that the VAR is a referee too far.
So what is Anouar Kali’s claim is fame? Answer correctly and treat yourself to a Big Free Bet!