The chaos in LaLiga highlights the brokenness of VAR

There are a number of issues plaguing the implementation of VAR. No aspect of the VAR’s relationship with the game is without problems. Coaches, players, and fans are all frustrated in one way or another. Consistency is something fans crave, yet VAR only adds perceived inconsistencies. Defining what is truly a “clear and obvious” mistake is difficult, as this is a subjective decision and more often than not, the decisions made will be down to human interpretation and judgment. Even as VAR expands into new leagues, such as Ligue 2 in France, the controversies persist. There is a general lack of trust in the referees, leaving many to wonder whether VAR is really worth all the pains. All this begs the question – can this be fixed, and if so, how? Mindful consideration and the totality of the circumstances in each match can be a beginning step towards addressing and solving these problems.
This article is the first in series to examine the various challenges experienced in the implementation of the VAR in soccer leagues across the globe. Video review system comes with several challenges in soccer and likely to cause issues for both the players and fans.

The Football Association filed a report with the police to investigate the leaking of controversial VAR audio in a match, but surprisingly, it was not the Premier League, but La Liga in Spain. In a competitive match between Real Madrid and Almería, VAR interventions significantly impacted the outcome, and the match was filled with controversial decisions that left fans, players, and coaches wondering about the effectiveness of the VAR technology.

Such problems with the VAR are not unique to a single league but are present globally. Fans, players, and coaches have shown a lack of faith in the abilities of referees to make the right decisions. Often, the use of VAR has fueled debates among fans, coaches, and players alike – which have attracted extensive media attention. The question on many people’s minds is whether the frustrations faced with VAR are justified and whether the tiny improvements the technology has made to the game have made the issues worth it. However, the general consensus is that VAR is here to stay.

Notwithstanding the numerous high-profile errors associated with VAR, it is viewed positively by most football stakeholders globally. Even though agreements are rare in the soccer world, one of the significant issues fuelling controversy in the use of VAR around the world is the questioning of when the technology should be involved in match decisions. Notably, the controversial match between Real Madrid and Almería in which VAR overturned several decisions that significantly impacted the outcome of the match.

The match saw Almería score two goals against Real Madrid, and three VAR interventions led to game-changing decisions. Almería players and officials contend that VAR decisions significantly influenced the outcome of the match and argued that the technology had surpassed allowable limits, especially in the Spanish LaLiga. Additionally, the leaking of VAR audio from the controversial match to a journalist further heightened tensions that led to the Spanish Football Federation involving the police.

The recent occurrence shows that many VAR decisions are far from “clear and obvious,” raising various interpretations and controversies. Additionally, the involvement of the VAR often results in subjective judgments about when it is right to intervene, further deepening the controversies surrounding the technology. Despite the desire for consistency, the term “clear and obvious” only adds further perceived inconsistencies in the application of the VAR, leading to widespread frustration among stakeholders.

Many prominent football figures have called for a review and simplification of the interpretation of the term “clear and obvious” used in VAR decision-making. However, a lack of agreement on the best actions to be taken to address the issues with VAR complicates the situation. Real Madrid, Almería, and other football clubs and their supporters often have varying opinions on the VAR interventions, depending on the situation and the stakes at hand. It’s clear that there is a significant need to rethink how VAR decisions in soccer matches are made, as different opinions can lead to contentious football matches.