Who Is Walter Pless?

Walter_Pless

A teacher by profession, but is now in his 38th year as a football writer. Has written for "Soccer Action" (Melbourne), "Australian Soccer Weekly" (Sydney) and "World Soccer" (London), as well as for several Tasmanian newspapers. Currently contributing to "Goal!Weekly" in Melbourne and the Australian magazine "Soccer International". Played for Croatia-Glenorchy, Caledonians, Metro, Rapid and University in Tasmania, as well as in the United States of America. Coached University, Metro and Croatia-Glenorchy.

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Chase for ball - Copy

Photo:  Could referees become less observant with the introduction of the VAR? [PlessPix]

The introduction of the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) system in several countries has been a disaster.

Amongst other things, it has led to unacceptable delays in football matches and, more worryingly, I believe it has the potential to make referees lazy.

In Australia, the use of the VAR last weekend led to a mass walk-out by Central Coast Mariners fans when two of their players were sent off after having their yellow cards elevated to red by the VAR in the 2-0 loss to Western Sydney Wanderers. Some coaches, players, experts and commentators thought the decision was wrong, too, so it wasn’t just the fans.

The system is being trialled in Australia, the USA, Germany, Italy and Portugal and is set to be used at the 2018 World Cup.

It involves a referee watching the game in a Video Operation Room, which can be in the actual stadium (or in another city to that in which the game is being played, as is the case in Germany).

The VAR reviews incidents in the game and then advises the referee on the pitch about what to do.

The VAR reviews decisions about goals and the build-ups to goals, penalties, red card decisions, and cases of mistaken identity in the awarding of yellow or red cards.

I believe that referees will use the VAR as a crutch and will rely on it rather than making the hard decisions themselves. The game has always been based on the premise, “If, in the opinion of the referee...”. That’s how it should be. If the referee doesn’t see it, the referee can’t give it.

The VAR is in communication with the on-field referee and the latter can even view an incident by running to the side of the pitch and watching it on a television screen.

I have seen German Bundesliga games held up for two or three minutes while the referee discusses a matter with the VAR and then also watches it at the side of the pitch on a TV screen. We were told it would only take seconds.

I have seen the process end with a ‘drop ball’, which makes one wonder why the delay was necessary in the first place as there was nothing wrong.

Football is such a popular game because it is continuous and free-flowing (not, for example, like American Football or cricket), and the laws are the same regardless of whether a game is being played at KGV Park or Wembley Stadium.

Apart from making referees lazy and less observant because they know they can call on the VAR when in doubt, the VAR system leads to an unhealthy stratification of the game.

It will be used in a World Cup Final or an A-League game, but not in the NPL and other lower leagues that are the lifeblood of the game and its followers.

I think there is a place for goal-line technology, but everything else should come down to the referee on the field and the two assistants on the lines.

Goal judges are already used in some leagues and competitions, but even that is beyond the resources of many leagues in many countries, where even finding enough referees to do the middle is difficult.

The laws are being changed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), but often not for the better.

The kick-off is a prime example. The IFAB has claimed in the past that they want to promote attacking football and so have changed the off-side law. But, by introducing the new kick-off procedure, they have encouraged defensive play. Players can now face their own half of the field and kick the ball backwards!

That is but one example.

I’m interested in what readers (and referees) think, so your comments will be most welcome.

Comments   

-1 #11 Anonymous 2017-12-24 01:40
Quoting Brian Young:
Quoting Anonymous:
why don't we just get 23 robots. 11 V 11 and a robot ref (wouldn't need assistants).

We can program the lot to never make a mistake.

We could make another 1,000 robots to watch (guarantee our NPL crowd average) then ....

the rest of us can go surfing

But some laws say, " if in the opinion of the referee...." That cannot be programmed.



oh yeah that blows my whole argument
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+1 #10 Brian Young 2017-12-23 21:22
AND....players do not stand in their own half of the field as per the laws. Something as simple as that is just ignored...some Las are more law than others.
I won't even mention about goalkeepers holding the ball outside the penalty area as they kick it up-field from their hands: clearly hand ball by the Law.

Foul throw-ins etc etc........and we worry about the VAR when the black & white laws are transgressed with impunity at all levels of the game.
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-3 #9 Brian Young 2017-12-23 05:57
Quoting Anonymous:
why don't we just get 23 robots. 11 V 11 and a robot ref (wouldn't need assistants).

We can program the lot to never make a mistake.

We could make another 1,000 robots to watch (guarantee our NPL crowd average) then ....

the rest of us can go surfing

But some laws say, " if in the opinion of the referee...." That cannot be programmed.
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-4 #8 Anonymous 2017-12-21 07:41
couldn't agree more re kick off. the intent was for the ball to be played forward.

LTGA
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-2 #7 Anonymous 2017-12-21 07:40
LTGA
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+3 #6 Anonymous 2017-12-21 07:38
why don't we just get 23 robots. 11 V 11 and a robot ref (wouldn't need assistants).

We can program the lot to never make a mistake.

We could make another 1,000 robots to watch (guarantee our NPL crowd average) then ....

the rest of us can go surfing
Quote
+5 #5 Brian Young 2017-12-20 07:27
Not lazy, just fear of being shown up by a "wrong decision."
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+6 #4 Adam Whitemore 2017-12-20 03:50
Much of what the VAR is ruling on are matters of opinion, not black or white. Whether the ball crossed the line and offside calls are generally definitive. A tackle being a red or yellow is a matter of subjectivity, and as we saw in the CCM game, seeing an incident multiple times doesn't make a referees decision making any better.

The game has been slowed down to a crawl, decisions are still wildly inconsistent (as they are based on opinion)

Referees always had the defence of seeing incidents once, in real time, so could be forgiven for errors. The same errors made with multiple replays now brings into doubt their understanding and interpretation of the laws (the Jets penalty v AU).

Having been at the Jets game on Saturday I experienced a goal being scored with muted celebration. Every goal can be crossed out after review. This is the joy of the game! Reason for VAR to go
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+4 #3 .... 2017-12-20 03:14
Quoting Pat:
You make a good point about football was once consistent across the globe. However, I think that VAR should not be written off just because it is clunky to start with. 3 points
1. There are so many emotions (and dollars) wrapped up in decisions that fans may grow to like getting the...


Pat, the main issue is that it's still subjective decision making in any case.
The ref for the WSW v CCM game got both red cards wrong in my opinion, others will say the first should have been but most will agree the second was not a red card.

Football wasn't broken before, it is the world game for a reason, there was no need to fix it.
Have people ever stopped to think that all of the cheating, dirty tackles and incorrect referee decisions may actually be part of footballs success as it provides drama and entertainment, and draws on passions that (try as hard as they may) other sports cannot replicate.

Leave the game alone
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+14 #2 Charlie White 2017-12-20 01:43
Hi Walter.

I think as a referee it undermines our initial decision making. The incident with CCM the other night, was in my opinion, shambolic. The referee was in a good position, saw the foul, called it, yellow card. Then to have it raised to red due to the ability to replay the event, look at it from another angle etc makes the initial decision look like it was wrong. The referee ran to the player, gave him a good strong talking to, showed the yellow. No doubt the talking to was along the lines of another one of them and you are off or that was very close etc. The moment you have to watch it, you have to apply the letter of the law without the emotion of the game. I know that sounds funny, but it does not make the game better in my opinion. Goal line makes sense, everything else means that we don't need a referee on the ground, just a whistle that echoes around the ground and a screen with a decision.
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