Earlier this week, football fans bore witness to an incredibly heated debate between Ronaldo and the assistant referee, when Portugal was denied a stoppage-time goal – for which the general consensus among fans appears to be in favour of Ronaldo’s ruling.
The Dutch referee has since apologised for his ruling.
Of course, the driving force behind this confrontation – for which the Dutch referee has since apologised to Portugal – was the conspicuous absence of video assistant referee and Hawk-Eye’s Goal Line Technology, as-of-yet unutilised within World Cup Qualifiers.
The motivation behind the two pivotal technologies’ omissions from World Cup qualifiers is relatively straightforward: given that a long list of stadiums hosting these matches have not yet been outfitted with the necessary technology, it is much fairer to do without VAR and Hawk-Eye altogether, than to create a discrepancy between various matches.
And, given VAR’s shaky introduction into football over the past two years, it is highly likely that this decision has gone down well with many fans of footballs – and, potentially, the players themselves. But will this hold back VAR in the long run? Read more below.
A Difficult Entrance
Anyone who has spent even half an hour in the company of a football fan over the course of the past two years will know that video assistant referee remains one of the most controversial subjects one can raise. While the technology is merely designed to improve refereeing (and, as a result, the fairness of matches), it has grown into its own separate entity – one that, for many, actively works against the ‘greater good’ within the stadium.
The impact can be seen far and wide, with some of the industry’s most influential entities weighing in with their own forecasts for the technology’s implementation, and acceptance. For instance, William Hill football has been following VAR’s implementation – and the subsequent effects this technology will have on sports betting, while a near-endless list of news outlets have all but dedicated their sports section to articles on VAR’s tightening grip on the beautiful game.
Whether you see it as a positive or negative force for football, however, the fact remains that VAR has caused a significant shift within the sport – both for the fans, and for the players. What was billed as an objective end to the ongoing controversies and conflicts that punctuate almost every match has, thus far, proven itself to be yet another bone of contention standing in the way of fairness for players and fans.
Absence Makes the Heart Grow…More Averse?
VAR has been in place within premier league games since the 2019/2020 season, and it seems as though ill-feeling toward this new technology has been growing steadily since that time. What was once an unfamiliar newcomer with a few early teething problems has now become a central source of grief for many fans around the world, even with a couple of years under its belt.
Now, with qualification liberated from the grip of VAR, those who remain ambivalent towards – or totally against – the technology can relive a simpler time for the sport. Of course, this gives rise to its own teething problems; players like Ronaldo have grown used to the technology – whether out of necessity or appreciation – which means that withdrawing it from play will inevitably cause troubles of its own.
Still, the respite will not last for much longer. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will see the return of VAR, first implemented in a FIFA World Cup Tournament back in 2018 with a long list of notable controversies. This would, of course, be a daunting prospect for match officials even if VAR had remained a mainstay of the sport throughout qualifiers; following a brief hiatus, however, all signs point to the technology experiencing a difficult and high-friction re-entrance onto the scene in 2022.