A record six red cards in one round, five of them the verdict of a video assistant referee decision, countless minutes wasted in tedious deliberation and hardly a soul remained by round’s end who didn’t feel a twitch of annoyance.

Yet the VAR is showing how it can be a success and delivering on its promise.

Sure, the theatrical round eight starkly highlighted the immediate flaws of the technology and vexed A-League fans throughout the weekend, provoking snap judgements from prominent football voices and armies of fans, but the strike rate of the VAR ultimately proved its worth.

Embed from Getty Images

Of each reviewed event over the weekend it can be argued only one decision resulted in an incorrect outcome – the non-offside of Baba Diawara in Adelaide’s opening goal – and Osama Malik’s red card was the only disciplinary action which shouldn’t have stood.

Each other incident was accurate and fit the criteria it was designed for: goal decisions including offside and goal-line calls, penalty decisions which include unseen handballs in the penalty area and blatant red cards – the things football fans tend to gripe about and would continue to if VAR didn’t exist.

While the principle of VAR can’t be argued against it’s the process that carries the issues: it takes too long to identify incidents, too long to evaluate and come to a conclusion and takes too much time out of a football game, disrupting the event for fans.

Football Federation Australia know this, and they aren’t hiding from it either. FFA Director of Referees Ben Wilson told the Fox Football Podcast: “On the whole, the time it’s taking us is too long but decisions we’re making are generally correct.”

Reviews are being conducted with increasing interference, flying in the face of the advertised functionality of the system: “minimum interference; maximum benefit”.

Article continues after this sponsored video (which you should totally watch)

Embed from Getty Images

If the A-League is already falling short on a VAR core pillar, it must unquestionably review its procedures.

The brick wall preventing the current VAR from evolving into its future streamlined self surrounds the astonishingly superfluous step of on-field referees hustling to the sidelines to watch an in-flight-movie-sized monitor.

How was this bill passed? Why employ a video assistant referee to sit behind multiple screens with upwards of 12 available camera angles if the referee needs a look as well?

Cricket, Australian rules football, rugby league and rugby union all have dedicated video officials in place to watch the replays and relay the correct decision back to the on-field referee. Why football feels the need have both officials check footage is an obvious area for modifying.

Therein lies the key to the VAR’s future glory.

Unfortunately the A-League can’t make this happen overnight because it’s not an A-League thing, it’s all of football.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) regulate the laws of the game of football and have stated in the VAR guidelines that the on-field referee can either take the advice of the VAR in the video operation room or he can check a monitor in the referee review area on the sideline, but mention nothing about the VAR making the definitive decision himself.

Each VAR in Australia is an A-League or FIFA accredited referee who knows how a football game functions. The individual needs to be given the authority to make decisions, not just assist in them. Doing so could possibly subtract two or three minutes of an average four minute procession.

Enforcing this eliminates nearly all complaints about the VAR, which mainly target time delays and match disruption.

Embed from Getty Images

Yet the question lingers: what does it say about Australian refereeing that we had that much drama in one round of football?

Was it purely coincidence or did it shine another light on A-League’s history of refereeing shortcomings? Let’s reserve judgement for now – it was one round of eight so far and the previous seven weren’t nearly as bad.

But VAR’s existence in general is questionable. On a global scale, sport has a growing obsession to use technology to try an obtain an unrealistic state of zero errors.

Sport lost its off-field dignity through the late 1980s and into the ’90s when it turned into a business interest. As far as on-field goes, what has always been a pursuit of leisure and competition (and an occupation) amongst people is now being insidiously trespassed by computers and machinery. It’s denigrating the human essence of sporting encounters.

It’s here now and there’s not much we can do about it. The VAR will be with us and we have to learn to live with it, but if it’s going to work – which it has so far and will to greater effect in the future – it’s got to be given more power.

SHARE
Football and Aussie rules commentator, writer and radio host/producer from Melbourne.