Would you bet on VAR getting it right?

28th Jan 2020

There's a photo-finish in an important horse race. While the judge is examining the picture, and that can sometimes take a little while, odds will be offered at the on-course betting ring to pick the winner from that photo. Often the jockeys themselves won't be quite sure.

What about football?

The interesting point in the previous scenario is that the decision is a matter of fact, but imagine if the same situation occurred when using VAR (Video Assistant Referee) at a football ground. You could conceivably bet on whether the goal was offside or not. But, imagine trying to work out what one referee's interpretation, sat in front of a bank of TVs, might be compared to the actual match official's opinion. Was it handball? Was it accidental? Did the player catch the goalkeeper before heading a goal?

The misuse of VAR

It seems very strange, for matters of opinion, that the monitor-watching referee can actually instruct their on-pitch colleague to change a decision. Recently, for red card offences, match referees have started to look at the pitch-side monitor, giving them the chance to make the final decision.

Why is it different for fouls and penalties? At the very least, shouldn't there be an informed discussion between the officials? Although referees and their assistants are miked-up, you rarely see any obvious asking of the assistants for their opinion.

Which brings us to rugby or cricket

With the former, for most incidents, the on-field referee will, in conjunction with the TV replay official, examine the incident on the large TV screen at the ground. They will discuss what they see, often with input from the touch judges, and then the actual match referee will reach the decision.

With cricket, apart from in or outline decisions for stumpings or run-outs, a degree of latitude - termed 'umpire's call' - is built in to the video referral decision-making process. This is an admission that technology might not be perfect, and these outcomes defer to the on-field umpire's decision.

Image result for var
A VARiety of options

So, different processes for different sports. It does seem, so far, that those such as rugby or cricket may be in a better place - but they have had a longer bedding-in period compared to soccer's just-introduced VAR. It will be interesting to watch the sports news to see what tweaks are made for next season. In the meantime, we can continue to enjoy sports betting on a whole range of clear win-lose-draw outcomes.

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