Is VAR scraping away the game’s charms?

Community Jun 26, 2018 by David Lewis Hamilton Spectator

The inclusion of the controversial Video Assistant Replay system into this year's World Cup came with its fair share of skepticism and discussion.

Soccer, for so long, has been a game in which decisions had to made in split seconds, with the accuracy of these calls added to the tension, drama and spectacle of the entire occasion.

For many, the human element of officiating was part of the reason why the game was so great.

That all changed when VAR was announced for the World Cup. Two weeks into the tournament, the discussion around VAR is as fiery as it's ever been. This is mostly because opinion has been split down the middle, and it's been fascinating to see how fans have reacted to soccer 'modernizing.'

What is unquestionable is how VAR has impacted this World Cup. Whether it's for the better or worse is up to interpretation. The VAR decision to uphold a questionable penalty late on for Iran in their game against Portugal completely changed the outcome of Group B, and this is just one instance in a list of controversies that have surrounded VAR.

The most concerning is that there have already been 20 penalties awarded at this World Cup — a tournament record — and we haven't even progressed from the group stages. VAR may be helping catch more decisions, but this has meant that more and more games have been decided, or at least significantly impacted, by a free shot from 12 yards. This increase in spot kicks is hardly conducive to free-flowing, competitive football.

Part of the frustration with the system comes from its inconsistency. For all the extra penalties it has helped award, VAR has also been under-utilized frequently. England's players were repeatedly slammed to the ground during corners against Tunisia but were constantly waved off, while Sweden will feel it should have been awarded a penalty against Germany when Marcus Berg was clean through on goal and was taken to the ground in the area.

The referee in both cases refused to review, and these are just two of the more high profile failures of VAR.

The argument boils down to this: Does VAR impact the game for the better? There will never be a consensus on this, but from the skeptic's perspective, VAR is scraping away at the charms of the game.

There has never been a clamour previously to riddle the game with technological advancements; for many, goal-line technology was all that was needed to help bring more fairness to the game. Now, we are faced with the growing discrepancy between how referees officiate games, and how soccer has been played for decades.

Now, instead of being able to celebrate a goal, penalty, or whatever it may be, supporters have to nervously wait to see if the referee wants to review it — something that can take many minutes. Not only does the game have to stop, but the crowd atmosphere is killed while a decision is pending.

This also stops any match momentum dead in its tracks, interfering with a soccer experience that no one ever thought was broken to begin with.

What makes soccer so great is how it flows, and how momentum can shift in an instant. This has been aided in the past by very few stoppages in play. Soccer doesn't stop the clock. They don't have multiple breaks in play like in hockey or football, and this all helps give the game a feeling of ebb and flow.

The inclusion of VAR does away with all of that, making the game a choppy affair and one that fans cannot immerse themselves in the same way. It is just another way in which soccer has disconnected from its match-going fans over the last decade.

The increase in accurate calls is nice. Soccer officiating has always been notoriously poor, but that human element has always been part of the reason why soccer is so revered. There is an understanding that referees can get decisions wrong, and that it's part of the overall experience.

Yes, that sometimes means that a game is decided by a really bad call, but as shown in this World Cup, the propensity to miss important calls hasn't disappeared. In fact, because VAR is available, it makes it that much more frustrating when calls are missed because, theoretically, that 'human element' has been done away with.

VAR added more controversy to a game that didn't need the extra talking points. Soccer was not screaming out for more technology, and VAR has had too much of an impact on the games played so far to advocate it.

David Lewis is a sportswriter from Manchester, U.K., with a focus on international and European club soccer.

David Lewis is a sportswriter from Manchester, U.K., with a focus on international and European club soccer.

Is VAR scraping away the game’s charms?

Community Jun 26, 2018 by David Lewis Hamilton Spectator

The inclusion of the controversial Video Assistant Replay system into this year's World Cup came with its fair share of skepticism and discussion.

Soccer, for so long, has been a game in which decisions had to made in split seconds, with the accuracy of these calls added to the tension, drama and spectacle of the entire occasion.

For many, the human element of officiating was part of the reason why the game was so great.

That all changed when VAR was announced for the World Cup. Two weeks into the tournament, the discussion around VAR is as fiery as it's ever been. This is mostly because opinion has been split down the middle, and it's been fascinating to see how fans have reacted to soccer 'modernizing.'

What is unquestionable is how VAR has impacted this World Cup. Whether it's for the better or worse is up to interpretation. The VAR decision to uphold a questionable penalty late on for Iran in their game against Portugal completely changed the outcome of Group B, and this is just one instance in a list of controversies that have surrounded VAR.

The most concerning is that there have already been 20 penalties awarded at this World Cup — a tournament record — and we haven't even progressed from the group stages. VAR may be helping catch more decisions, but this has meant that more and more games have been decided, or at least significantly impacted, by a free shot from 12 yards. This increase in spot kicks is hardly conducive to free-flowing, competitive football.

Part of the frustration with the system comes from its inconsistency. For all the extra penalties it has helped award, VAR has also been under-utilized frequently. England's players were repeatedly slammed to the ground during corners against Tunisia but were constantly waved off, while Sweden will feel it should have been awarded a penalty against Germany when Marcus Berg was clean through on goal and was taken to the ground in the area.

The referee in both cases refused to review, and these are just two of the more high profile failures of VAR.

The argument boils down to this: Does VAR impact the game for the better? There will never be a consensus on this, but from the skeptic's perspective, VAR is scraping away at the charms of the game.

There has never been a clamour previously to riddle the game with technological advancements; for many, goal-line technology was all that was needed to help bring more fairness to the game. Now, we are faced with the growing discrepancy between how referees officiate games, and how soccer has been played for decades.

Now, instead of being able to celebrate a goal, penalty, or whatever it may be, supporters have to nervously wait to see if the referee wants to review it — something that can take many minutes. Not only does the game have to stop, but the crowd atmosphere is killed while a decision is pending.

This also stops any match momentum dead in its tracks, interfering with a soccer experience that no one ever thought was broken to begin with.

What makes soccer so great is how it flows, and how momentum can shift in an instant. This has been aided in the past by very few stoppages in play. Soccer doesn't stop the clock. They don't have multiple breaks in play like in hockey or football, and this all helps give the game a feeling of ebb and flow.

The inclusion of VAR does away with all of that, making the game a choppy affair and one that fans cannot immerse themselves in the same way. It is just another way in which soccer has disconnected from its match-going fans over the last decade.

The increase in accurate calls is nice. Soccer officiating has always been notoriously poor, but that human element has always been part of the reason why soccer is so revered. There is an understanding that referees can get decisions wrong, and that it's part of the overall experience.

Yes, that sometimes means that a game is decided by a really bad call, but as shown in this World Cup, the propensity to miss important calls hasn't disappeared. In fact, because VAR is available, it makes it that much more frustrating when calls are missed because, theoretically, that 'human element' has been done away with.

VAR added more controversy to a game that didn't need the extra talking points. Soccer was not screaming out for more technology, and VAR has had too much of an impact on the games played so far to advocate it.

David Lewis is a sportswriter from Manchester, U.K., with a focus on international and European club soccer.

David Lewis is a sportswriter from Manchester, U.K., with a focus on international and European club soccer.

Is VAR scraping away the game’s charms?

Community Jun 26, 2018 by David Lewis Hamilton Spectator

The inclusion of the controversial Video Assistant Replay system into this year's World Cup came with its fair share of skepticism and discussion.

Soccer, for so long, has been a game in which decisions had to made in split seconds, with the accuracy of these calls added to the tension, drama and spectacle of the entire occasion.

For many, the human element of officiating was part of the reason why the game was so great.

That all changed when VAR was announced for the World Cup. Two weeks into the tournament, the discussion around VAR is as fiery as it's ever been. This is mostly because opinion has been split down the middle, and it's been fascinating to see how fans have reacted to soccer 'modernizing.'

What is unquestionable is how VAR has impacted this World Cup. Whether it's for the better or worse is up to interpretation. The VAR decision to uphold a questionable penalty late on for Iran in their game against Portugal completely changed the outcome of Group B, and this is just one instance in a list of controversies that have surrounded VAR.

The most concerning is that there have already been 20 penalties awarded at this World Cup — a tournament record — and we haven't even progressed from the group stages. VAR may be helping catch more decisions, but this has meant that more and more games have been decided, or at least significantly impacted, by a free shot from 12 yards. This increase in spot kicks is hardly conducive to free-flowing, competitive football.

Part of the frustration with the system comes from its inconsistency. For all the extra penalties it has helped award, VAR has also been under-utilized frequently. England's players were repeatedly slammed to the ground during corners against Tunisia but were constantly waved off, while Sweden will feel it should have been awarded a penalty against Germany when Marcus Berg was clean through on goal and was taken to the ground in the area.

The referee in both cases refused to review, and these are just two of the more high profile failures of VAR.

The argument boils down to this: Does VAR impact the game for the better? There will never be a consensus on this, but from the skeptic's perspective, VAR is scraping away at the charms of the game.

There has never been a clamour previously to riddle the game with technological advancements; for many, goal-line technology was all that was needed to help bring more fairness to the game. Now, we are faced with the growing discrepancy between how referees officiate games, and how soccer has been played for decades.

Now, instead of being able to celebrate a goal, penalty, or whatever it may be, supporters have to nervously wait to see if the referee wants to review it — something that can take many minutes. Not only does the game have to stop, but the crowd atmosphere is killed while a decision is pending.

This also stops any match momentum dead in its tracks, interfering with a soccer experience that no one ever thought was broken to begin with.

What makes soccer so great is how it flows, and how momentum can shift in an instant. This has been aided in the past by very few stoppages in play. Soccer doesn't stop the clock. They don't have multiple breaks in play like in hockey or football, and this all helps give the game a feeling of ebb and flow.

The inclusion of VAR does away with all of that, making the game a choppy affair and one that fans cannot immerse themselves in the same way. It is just another way in which soccer has disconnected from its match-going fans over the last decade.

The increase in accurate calls is nice. Soccer officiating has always been notoriously poor, but that human element has always been part of the reason why soccer is so revered. There is an understanding that referees can get decisions wrong, and that it's part of the overall experience.

Yes, that sometimes means that a game is decided by a really bad call, but as shown in this World Cup, the propensity to miss important calls hasn't disappeared. In fact, because VAR is available, it makes it that much more frustrating when calls are missed because, theoretically, that 'human element' has been done away with.

VAR added more controversy to a game that didn't need the extra talking points. Soccer was not screaming out for more technology, and VAR has had too much of an impact on the games played so far to advocate it.

David Lewis is a sportswriter from Manchester, U.K., with a focus on international and European club soccer.

David Lewis is a sportswriter from Manchester, U.K., with a focus on international and European club soccer.