Let’s get one thing straight. Before we get on to if it is good or bad for the game, for starters what is it called?
Is it V.A.R or Var (Video Assistant Referee)? For the record, I’m going V.A.R. As for the impact on the game, well it depends whether you are a referee, player, fan or commentator!
There has been huge debate in recent weeks over the flow of the game when it is in use, whether the fans should be able to see the video replays, whether it actually helps officials to the right decision and do we really need or want it.
I’m afraid I can’t answer those questions but it could certainly change the game for those of us in the commentary box.
This weekend, it was in use again for the FA Cup and caused a few issues for experienced voices such as Guy Mowbray. Despite what some people may think, the job isn’t easy. There are countless aspects to the role but describing the pace and flow of the game and the excitement of a goal are key.
However, what if the goal is chalked off? Of course we already have offside decisions but the assistant’s flag is up or not. The issue comes when you don’t know if the decision will stand or even if the new system is being used by the official in the middle. ‘Play to the whistle’ is a phrase most of us that have the played the game know and I guess we need to ‘talk to the whistle’ from our position in the stand.
There is a temptation to keep an eye on the referee but I think you just need to go for it.
The return of Leonardo Ulloa to Brighton and Hove Albion gives me a timely reminder of how a moment of drama may be somewhat lost if V.A.R. is introduced.
His last-minute goal that sealed a play-off place at Nottingham Forest will live with me forever but what if we all had to stop, wait, look, listen for the possibility of the decision being overturned?
You could argue that with big video screens the crowd may get even more tension, but for me if the goal had stood after a conference of over a minute, it would have taken away some of the joy for the fans and certainly for me in describing the action.
I am always open to new media and technology and embrace it as much as I can. My children may be more adept in the future and they, one of whom is a huge NFL fan, would probably think nothing of V.A.R.
For me, though, I fear the use of the system may detract from the experience.
Regular rugby and cricket commentators may disagree, and I do both, but it feels slightly different in football. I may be proved wrong and in a way hope I am. Players love scoring a goal, and for many commentators describing a big moment is as good as it gets. I for one wouldn’t want to lose that.
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