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Is Tech The Future Of Refereeing In Football?

Technology advances all the time with many innovators striving to make the world a better place by creating technology that makes our lives easier. Elon Musk, for example, has created the Tesla electric vehicle, invented Paypal (previously known as X), and SolarCity, which provides low-cost solar panels. When it comes to football, the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is now being implemented across most competitions, most notably FIFA which successfully trialed it in the 2018 World Cup. It is now going to be implemented for all games in all stadiums for the 2022 World Cup, which takes place in Doha, Qatar.

The development of VAR technology

VAR was first developed in the early 2010s by the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) and went through mock trials in 2012 and 2013. The use of the technology was not favorable with the then FIFA President Sepp Blatter but has since been warmly received by current FIFA President Gianni Infantino who has agreed that its use will make for a fairer game.

The main setup of VAR is using 12 dedicated cameras which are installed under the roof of the stadiums at different locations and are used to track the players and the ball. Each player has 29 data points on them that relay constant information to the operations unit at a rate of 50 times per second, meaning all players are tracked at all times during the game. Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) are placed in all the Al Rihla, Adidas’ official match balls that will be used for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. This relays information at 500 times per second and provides detailed information of where the ball is located and what interactions it has with the players With this sort of technology being implemented in the game the World Cup odds 2022 should be closely scrutinized, as more accurately made decisions can vastly alter the outcome of a game and change the odds entirely.

New tech concerns

There have been some concerns about the use of VAR such as instances where flags have covered the cameras or technical difficulties both of which have happened and caused unwanted interruption of gameplay. Some people have also noted that it is less successful with subjective calls such as penalties or player discipline. Generally speaking though, this sort of technology has been deemed a huge success with accuracy rates as high as 99.3% compared to 95% by referees not using VAR.

How VAR can help the game

The presence of VAR during matches has been attributed to cleaner games, with fewer red and yellow cards issued, which is suspected to be due to the fact that the players are aware that they are being monitored at all times and are less likely to get away with anything. VAR is also instrumental in accessing the notorious offside rule, as the players are tracked with pinpoint accuracy. There have been many controversial calls regarding the offside rule over the years but VAR can make this issue moot.

It is important to note that for the foreseeable future, human on-field referees will not be fully replaced as a human element is needed during the game. Robots can’t yet gauge the emotions, actions, and reactions of the players, and decisions based on these elements need to be made quickly and on the spot, which still requires a human component.