How football technology VAR answers an unsaid need.
Great progress has been made in the world of tech, from the constantly evolving smartphone that makes everyday life easier to more targeted solutions such as Convene, a board management software solution that runs smoother meetings for business leaders.
But what makes an innovation great?
Majority of the time, inventions that have been categorized as revolutionary have answered a need. However, not all great advancements stemmed from obvious needs. Take the automobile for example. In 1902, the bicycle was the ultimate mode of transportation and automobiles were deemed too expensive to be feasible. The New York Times even called it “impractical” back in 1902, but Henry Ford created the ideal method of mass production which made automobiles less costly. The rest is history.
As technology continues to advance, new innovations find its way to the forefront of momentous events, not least of which is sports. This year, the Video Assistant Referees (VAR) was officially sanctioned for use in the FIFA World Cup in Russia. VAR is football’s first foray into advanced video technology; its purpose is to review footage of the game concerning three game-changing incidents: goals, penalty decisions, and red cards.
After its long trial phase within several smaller leagues, the FIFA council voted unanimously for VAR’s implementation in the biggest international football tournament. This move was to ensure that the referees’ calls are correct when it comes to game-changing incidents such as goals, penalty decisions, and red cards.
Playing the Part
When it comes to football, a single goal can make a difference whether a team is in or out. For the Germany vs. South Korea match up, this proved to be true as Korean player Kim Young-gwon struck a first goal which was initially considered offside; however, upon VAR review, it was deemed a legitimate goal. A second Korean goal later in the game sent Germany – the defending champions – back home early in the tournament.
However, VAR is not just a tool to make sure goals count—it’s also a tool that books players when push literally comes to shove. The renowned Cristiano Ronaldo earned himself a yellow card in the heated Portugal vs. Iran bout as his elbow made harsh contact with Morteza Pouraliganji during an intense footrace. VAR footage showcased Portugal’s pride Ronaldo throwing his arm out which caused the Iranian player to fall.
In Argentina’s case, Marcos Rojo was spared from a red card for going off the field and giving Nigeria a penalty. To the normal eye, Rojo appears to handle the ball with his hand after it bounces off his head. Nonetheless, a replay from the newly implemented video technology system revealed that Rojo did not warrant a booking, saving Argentina from their opposition’s goal attempt.
The most controversial use of VAR was in the Croatia vs. France final itself. Ivan Perisic, the imposing striker of Croatia, had seemingly handled the ball with his hand during French player Antoine Griezmann’s corner kick. The shot went out of bounds and the referee, Nestor Pinata, was ready to move on with a goal kick. However, VAR informed Pinata to review to the footage from the monitor stationed at the side of the field.
For a tense few minutes, everyone waited for the decision as the referee doubled back to the monitor for one last look at the video before rejoining the players on the field. In the end, Pinata called it as a handball and France received a penalty kick. Griezmann did not squander his chance and netted the ball that further cemented France’s victory.
Although numerous decisions made with VAR are considered correct, a few are also questionable. As the technology is fairly new, it is almost expected that it would be met with a certain degree of resistance. Despite this, VAR has supporters who are excited for its impact on the sport.
For one, clearer calls can be made as there will be video evidence of incidents. It prevents rules from being constantly exploited; for example, Brazilian striker Neymar can no longer fish out free kicks or other penalties with his theatrics as referees can now examine the contact made between two players.
Video evidence will change how players perform in the game. The added scrutiny will make them wary of their action, thus altering the future of football. Different strategies and play styles may arise to assure that the turn of events within a game is adhering to the stricter rules brought about VAR.
“Technology brings transparency and quality and it provides a positive outcome for teams who decide to attack and take risks,” says former Argentine professional footballer and manager, Diego Maradona on VAR.
From its humble yet confusing beginnings in Dutch Football to its debut on the World Cup stage, VAR demonstrates how innovations come to life with use. Video replays of incidents aided several referees in their decision-making. It can even change the entire course of a game. The system may not be perfect for now but upon further trial and error, VAR could potentially alter the way football is played for the better.
The usage of VAR opens new possibilities for technology, especially when it comes to sports. Consequently, Goal Line Technology, a technical way of determining in real time whether or not the whole of the ball crossed the goal line, was also present for the entirety of the World Cup.
Factors such as accountability and transparency are highlighted and presented in a way that is easier to understand through these innovations. These are two unsaid needs that were addressed by VAR which in turn impacts the outcome of a match.
However, accountability and transparency are not just important in sports wherein players have to be responsible for their actions but also in other business sectors, especially in this digitally-focused era.
Today’s innovations must be transparent about how they follow the security standards set by the authorized bodies; similar to how players must learn to follow the new rules of play inadvertently brought about by VAR. Furthermore, businesses must be able to acknowledge how they are liable to certain consequences as a result of their actions and decisions.
Subtle needs are often overlooked yet they can still be answered. In this new advent of novel solutions, what comes next?