VAR is not football as we know it

3 mins read

For a country that doesn’t even employ goal-line technology, the Cyprus FA is taking a leap of faith in its determination to introduce the highly controversial Video Assistant Referee system next season.

The reasoning behind it seems very sketchy as the Cyprus FA doesn’t exactly have a world-standard product to preserve neither has it packaged the game to make it a family-friendly success.

VAR also needs high-tech expertise, a high standard of referring and stadiums that enable modern communication via wireless technology.

Most Cyprus football grounds lack even the basic modern amenities with stadiums that belong in the last century not the brave era of VAR and technological advancement.

Although VAR is an additional tool for the football authorities to erase grey areas in decision making the new technology has proved to be troublesome.

Such an innovative system is supposed to make the life of referees easier in helping to ensure their decisions have more substance with video evidence.

But VAR is only as good as the standard of refereeing and Cyprus isn’t overpopulated with top quality refs.

It is also questionable whether VAR will eradicate the sense of suspicion and skulduggery that permeates every crucial on-field decision.

Ask most Cypriot football fans and they will argue that games are fixed, or the championship is rigged in favour of certain teams.

You will have to search high and low to find someone that believes the game is clean, the referees impartial and the football association an oasis of independent “untouchables”.

Cyprus football is in disrepute, unloved and unwatched because it is run by people with vested interests who are uninterested in improving quality and ensuring the league is beyond reproach.

Maybe the FA wants to prove it is a modern forward-thinking association by introducing VAR but its track-record indicates that it lacks the skills to drag Cyprus football into the 21st Century.

Crowds are not going to flock back to the terraces because they believe VAR will take corruption and incompetence out of the game.

Video assistance may help the referee but many of the decisions, like awarding a penalty, are still subjective and a matter of interpretation.

You can bank on the new technology having teething problems as players and spectators come to terms with VAR while having to wait whether a goal stands or not.

Even in the most sophisticated leagues in the world, VAR has caused headaches and circumspection.

Imagine what outrage it will trigger in Cyprus where fans already think the dice are loaded against them.

Those who run football have managed to ensure that Cypriots stay away from matches with most fixtures played out in front of near-empty stadiums.

The FA should also be embarrassed it can’t even bribe people to go and watch the national team but believes VAR is the answer to their prayers.

It’s rather like putting some fancy spoilers on an old banger and pretending it’s a racing car, wishful thinking won’t get it past the finishing line.

Corruption claims

VAR cannot resurrect Cyprus football from its current malaise when major clubs like Omonia Nicosia and AEL Limassol allege there is deep corruption in the game and want FIFA and UEFA to know about it.

If two of the biggest clubs in the land believe the game is tainted, how are fans expected to be attracted to local football?

At the moment we are only seeing the ugly side of the game which is strangling young Cypriot talent while accommodating older foreign players looking for a payday in the sun – why else would they come?

These are wounds that have been allowed to fester by an FA that is not fit for purpose and to compound the situation they are going to stick VAR on top of this House of Cards.

There have been several controversies and teething problems during VAR’s appearance in the Premier League with fans in the stadium unaware of when a decision is being reviewed.

This causes unrest and relatively long delays disrupt the flow of the game, not to mention chalking off a goal after wild celebrations because VAR spotted a marginal offside decision.

It changes the dynamics of the atmosphere in the stadium with an element of trepidation creeping in every time VAR comes into play.

Nevertheless, the availability of replays from different angles doesn’t end debate or resolve disagreements about penalty incidents.

Experts now argue whether goals should be disallowed for offside when it takes a laser beam to separate opponents with microscopic accuracy that is invisible to the naked eye.

VAR only intervenes in the course of a match when the officials have made a ‘clear and obvious error’ such as goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity.

Then again, incidents reviewed are not always ‘clear and obvious’, like handball for instance.

Therefore, imagine a nightmare scenario where Cyprus football matches descend into chaos with a never-ending argument on the pitch assisted by countless replays where decisions are taken by someone sitting in a van.