The VAR and the penalty of an imperfect society
Víctor García
May 16, 2024

The Premier League clubs will vote next month on whether or not VAR will continue in their competition next season after there have been notable disagreements this year that -sometimes due to personal interpretations and others due to human error- have led to controversy and headlines in the press and angry BAR conversations. The desired perfection sought by the sport has not been such and there are those who see with better eyes a live human error than a human error with technology in the middle. The key is that, as a society, we have not been able to integrate that human error is part of the sport (of life) and that in the same way that a player fails, so does the referee and it is part of the same game.

“I’m sure no one is making mistakes on purpose, but it happened and I don’t know why,” said manager Jurgen Klopp this week after being wronged by a mistake in Tottenham – Liverpool. That is precisely the key, that mistakes are not made on purpose. From here, for example, and in the specific case of offside: is it more in line with the philosophy of the rule that technology signals an offside by a centimeter or that the human eye gave the goal? This rule was introduced to prevent a player from living permanently in the opponent’s half waiting for the ball. From there, everyone can interpret what is more ethical and fair for the good of the sport.


FIFA and UEFA, according to SportsIn, are not considering backtracking with a technology that costs around 4 million per season for a European competition. They are keeping a close eye on the process being carried out in England, but for their part there is no controversy over its use. Moreover, they wanted to implement it at a cheaper cost and that they could ask from the dugout (each coach) the VAR review, like in tennis.

The big problem with VAR is not intrinsic to soccer, but to a society that aims for perfection and only seems to be served by the 10 in every action. The failure is not of the referee or the VAR, but ‘building’ human beings demanding at every step that everything -under their point of view- is idyllic. Be like on Instagram. The ease with which the insult is present in certain stands for a failure of our team is frightening and is related to that millimetric nonconformity when examining a play.

Wellcome to the VAR. (James Marsh/Shutterstock)

In rugby we are taught from an early age that if the referee doesn’t whistle something, it doesn’t exist. That is the end of the story. In soccer, more massified and perhaps with more uncontrolled passions, it has not been possible to educate the fans that a referee’s mistake is as much a part of the game as a striker’s success. These are variables that will always be present (always, always, never on purpose).


And it is this non-conformism that has led to the technological ‘evolution’ of soccer and other sports and to demand that they be perfect, even though the reality is that we are an imperfect society. Speaking of perfection, in Formula 1, a sport of engineers, a little more than a decade ago, aerodynamic rules were established so exalted in the search for that perfect car that caused the human factor to reduce more than normal its range of protagonism. At that time -between 2010 and 2013- drivers were passengers in a car in which the engineers’ ability to influence the results of each race was abusive, so that the tests became tedious, predictable and even with complications for overtaking… And the audience fell. F1 should have reversed course and put the driver and the human factor back in the spotlight, so that uncertainty, successes and unpredictable mistakes could emerge more frequently in search of excitement in each Grand Prix.

Perhaps VAR and technology is good for judging certain aspects or there are those who aspire to a sport judged in a supposedly perfect way. However, perfection is not exactly compatible with emotion or passion, nor is obsessing over it a reference model for the new generations. They already have enough problems with the problems derived from ‘perfect’ aspirational accounts on social networks. A goal is not a goal because the ball has crossed the goal line, but because the referee has whistled it. This premise entails respect and trust for the rule and the referee, and should be more integrated in every fan so as not to be so disappointed with VAR or refereeing.

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