Referees and VAR need to work better together after Ibusuki error

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Referees and VAR were once again in the spotlight after a controversial red card was handed to Adelaide United’s Hiroshi Ibusuki over the weekend.

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It was 40 minutes into the Sydney FC vs Adelaide United with the Reds 1-0 up when the game was soon to change dramatically. 

The ball was loose after Ibusuki made a pressing run, Sydney’s Anthony Caceres was committing to a tackle. Ibusuki slid to keep possession before making the slightest contact with Caceres, who fell onto the ground just short of where the challenge was made. 

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Referee Daniel Elder didn’t hesitate to send Ibusuki off. Being that it was a red card, VAR officials checked and backed Elder’s decision. Looking at the replays, it showed Ibusuki’s left foot touched the ball before his top of his right foot brushed Caceres’s right foot. 

Caceres jumped to avoid any contact with Ibusuki, but still managed to fall after the slighetst of touches. Elder and VAR officials believed that it was enough to warrant a red card. 

Even with the help of VAR and the fact that there was nothing in that challenge that deserved a red card, why are referees and VAR officials getting it wrong? 

They are constantly under pressure, from coaches, to players, and fans. Referees and VAR face it all. You are never going to win everyone over in a game of football, there are always critics. 

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Adelaide players had the right to show their frustrations towards Elder, he had the perfect view of the challenge. He also had VAR, the best video technology around to reverse his decision. Instead VAR backed him. Sydney players weren’t complaining, they had a big chance to steal three points.  

Both coaches at the post-match press conferences admitted that Elder and VAR officials made the wrong call with Adelaide’s coach Carl Veart blasting officials. 

“That’s something we don’t want in the game. We’re trying to attract a lot of new supporters to the game and decisions like that might put people off,” he said.

Sydney’s coach Steve Corica came out with a more calmer approach. Like with Veart, disagreeing with Ibusuki’s red card. 

“Ibusuki did have his studs up as he slid in. But when you look at it again, it probably was a little bit harsh,” he said. 

Veart and Corica make great points. We always want more people to show an interest in the beautiful game. Having referees and VAR officials making wrong calls like this incident, it’s just going to point people in a different direction. 

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A studs up challenge is always serious. Whenever you go studs up, particularly to the knee, you are always going to face consequences. 

The red card shown to Ibusuki was harsh, there is no denying that from a neutral point of view. But as a football supporter, myself along with many other supporters will agree that a studs up challenge can result in serious injuries.

Head of Referees for Football Australia Nathan Magill released a statement post-match saying that the matter would be “investigated the next day”. 

The statement agreed that Ibusuki’s red card was an “obvious error” meaning Ibusuki is available for Adelaide’s next game. 

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These investigations shouldn’t have to happen, it’s a waste of resources and time. The right decision needs to be made on the field. 

Referees and VAR officials need better training. Football Australia needs to invest in better resources for the sake of the officials, but also the game. 

Calls like Ibusuki’s one should not happen again, it is painting football in a bad light and is influencing the next generation of referees to make decisions based off the one that happened in Sydney. 

Featured image credit: Photomac 

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Nick Jensen
Nick Jensen
Journalism Student at Massey University Wellington and a passionate Football Fan, covering the Wellington Phoenix Men and Women for the 2022/23 season.

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