June 24, 2019

VAR Has One Job, And It's Failing Miserably At It: The most common complaint against VAR—or any form of video review in sports—in one of aesthetics. If referees insist on stopping the game for several minutes to double check every key play, the thinking goes, all the drama and intensity and emotion of the biggest moments will be lost, and the celebrations of fans will be replaced by hesitance and trepidation while they wait to confirm that what they just saw with their own eyes actually happened.

It’s a fine argument, one that at least a strong minority of sports fans would agree with. But most leagues around the world have chosen to ignore it. If the game gets delayed for a bit, they’ve decided, that’s okay, because it’s a small price to pay to avoid controversy and make sure officials are making an objectively correct call.

posted by bender to soccer at 04:34 PM - 8 comments

I've been generally supportive of VAR but I wish it had been introduced at earlier tournaments than the World Cup. It has detracted from this Cup more than it has improved it. The time delays and dubious decisions are removing a lot of excitement from the matches.

posted by rcade at 04:44 PM on June 24

I was noting to friends I was watching Brazil-France with yesterday, right after the VAR review that ultimately disallowed Gauvin's goal in the first half, that there has been a lot of disagreement between Unkel and the final VAR decisions. Maybe the matches I've watched have or have not been a representative sample, but I feel like in more than half of the VAR reviews I've seen, Unkel's interpretation was subsequently contradicted by the ref's decision.

Though I think I generally agree with the conclusion of this piece: "When the freakin' rules analyst can't even look at the same replays the ref is looking at and come to the same conclusions as her, it should be crystal clear just how impossible it is for VAR to do its job." There are clearly different interpretations of what constitutes a clear and egregious mistake that needs correction, and some work is also necessary to streamline the VAR decision process.

posted by bender at 04:45 PM on June 24

Rcade, I agree on all counts. I'm for it, but I don't want to work out the kinks at the World Cup.

posted by bender at 04:46 PM on June 24

Cricket's DRS is the best video replay system of any sport. You have plain old-fashioned slo-mo video replay, a hot spot camera that detects if the ball hit the bat, the snickometer that shows you an audio wave if the ball even so much as grazes a bat, and then the best of them all: hawk-eye. Hawk-eye is a modelling system that shows you if a ball would've hit the wickets had a body not been in the way. You can use that in combination with slo-mo video and snicko to determine an LBW.

Cricket can probably do this better just because it lends itself, as action on the field, much better than a sport with constant action.

posted by NoMich at 06:22 PM on June 24

VAR as currently implemented has the same problem as does video replay in other sports. That is, stopping the game to look at a call is disruptive and destroys the flow of the game. I would suggest a "god" in the booth with many eyes to use. "God" would have absolute authority over all calls, and he or she would signal the referee that a call on the field was not correct. Play would not be stopped while the "god" made a decision, but if a call were to be overturned, play would be stopped, any action after the play in question would be negated, and the game would resume from the point of the overturned call. This is not unlike what the NHL does when a previously disallowed or unnoticed goal is subsequently allowed.

The NFL could easily do something similar, and since play stops frequently, disruption would be minimized. No more requests for review would be allowed, nor should any be necessary. Do the same thing in the NHL with expanded review of things that are not now reviewable. I would not suggest that for example, a missed offside that has no effect on play or an uncalled and questionable minor penalty that likewise has no effect or causes no injury be called on review. Some common sense is needed. MLB review is almost right by limiting the number of reviews on safe/out calls. Boundary calls (in play or out of play) are automatic or should be, and this would include fan interference at a boundary. In the NBA, review of anything additional is madness.

posted by Howard_T at 06:37 PM on June 24

When the referees return to the field from the review monitor to give their decisions, their sign language reminds me of Ozzie Guillen bringing in Bobby Jenks from the bullpen.

posted by beaverboard at 07:30 PM on June 24

I like Howard's suggestions. VAR is useful but for sure needs some evolution in how it's implemented to reduce the four minute breaks.

posted by billsaysthis at 11:30 AM on June 25

To go back to cricket's replay system, it's quick and transparent. No umps are trotting off the field to look under hoods or to put on whatever communication gear to talk to someone else. The umps already have communication gear on them and the third ump (the one using the technology to review the play) is mic'd into the stadium's PA, so the crowd can hear what he is saying while is talking through what he is seeing.

Sure, play is being halted while the review is happening, but it's usually only for one or two minutes.

posted by NoMich at 01:15 PM on June 25

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