VAR fu­ture in doubt

Ger­man video ref chief sacked over fix­ing al­le­ga­tions

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS -

Bun­desliga fans are de­mand­ing the end of video as­sis­tant ref­eree (VAR) test­ing in Ger­many as the sys­tem’s Ger­man league chief was re­placed ear­lier this week amid ac­cu­sa­tions of in­flu­enc­ing matches.

The VAR is be­ing tri­alled this sea­son in Italy and Ger­many with soc­cer’s gov­ern­ing body FIFA yet to de­cide whether it will be used at June’s World Cup in Rus­sia.

In Ger­many, the VAR ex­per­i­ment has sparked con­tro­versy and de­bate with “Cologne” – the cen­ter where all scenes are re­viewed – widely blamed for un­fa­vor­able rul­ings and a by­word for a place where bad de­ci­sions are made.

Judg­ing by fans’ ban­ners at topflight grounds around Ger­many at the week­end, most sup­port­ers want VAR scrapped im­me­di­ately.

On Mon­day, mag­a­zine Kicker ran the head­line “Only losers: Ir­ri­ta­tion, sanc­tions, wrong de­ci­sions” on its cover next to an im­age of a ref­eree show­ing a red card.

The VAR sys­tem sparked se­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tions last week­end which ul­ti­mately cost Hell­mut Krug, the head of the VAR sys­tem in Cologne, his role.

Ger­many’s big­gest-sell­ing news­pa­per Bild claimed Krug twice in­flu­enced penalty de­ci­sions in fa­vor of Schalke, which he sup­ports, dur­ing their 1-1 league draw with Wolfs­burg on Oc­to­ber 28.

“I be­lieve that we have the wrong peo­ple in Cologne,” fumed Augs­burg Sports Direc­tor Ste­fan Reuter in re­ac­tion. ‘Cat­a­strophic’

Krug ve­he­mently de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions, but the Ger­man FA – the DFB – moved swiftly on Mon­day to re­move him as head of the project.

For­mer top ref­eree Lutz Michael Froehlich has re­placed Krug, pledg­ing “trans­parency in the pro­ce­dures.”

“For me, it is im­por­tant that the ref­eree keeps his re­spon­si­ble role on the field and play­ers, as well as spec­ta­tors, have con­fi­dence in him,” added Froehlich.

It has been a rocky few days for the DFB.

Last week, it called for the VAR to in­ter­vene more dur­ing matches, even if the on-field ref­eree did not com­mit an ob­vi­ous er­ror, which was met with protests from the clubs.

“The whole com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the DFB is cur­rently cat­a­strophic,” fumed Moenchenglad­bach Sport Direc­tor Max Eberl.

“If you have a test phase and you want to adapt the en­tire sys­tem, that’s jus­ti­fied, but then ev­ery­one should know it.

“We should only need the video as­sis­tant in a sit­u­a­tion which is re­ally cru­cial to the game.”

Jupp Heynckes, coach of Bun­desliga lead­ers Bay­ern Mu­nich, agrees.

“I think you should not cut out the ref­eree too much. Only in very se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tions should video ev­i­dence be con­sulted,” he said. “You must not di­lute the foot­ball.” Glad­bach’s coach Di­eter Heck­ing does not ex­pect the sys­tem to still be in use af­ter De­cem­ber’s win­ter break.

“The VAR is good for foot­ball, but I dare to sug­gest that it will be canned in the win­ter break,” said Heck­ing.

“It’s in a test phase, but it seems we are do­ing ev­ery­thing to en­sure it doesn’t have a chance.”

Fans com­plain that VAR in­ter­ven­tions spoil the flow of the game.

NFL role model

It of­ten takes min­utes for de­ci­sions to be made, which leads to dis­gruntle­ment at Bun­desliga grounds when the ref sig­nals that the VAR is check­ing a sit­u­a­tion.

The 3-3 draw be­tween Wolfs­burg and Hertha Ber­lin last week­end is a good ex­am­ple as two first-half goals for hosts Wolfs­burg were dis­al­lowed by the VAR, which in­censed home fans.

“There was a lot of rest­less­ness in the game be­cause of the video ref­eree,” said Hertha coach Pal Dar­dai.

For­mer Ger­many in­ter­na­tional Ste­fan Ef­fen­berg says the Bun­desliga should copy the ex­am­ple of Amer­i­can foot­ball, where de­ci­sions in the Na­tional Foot­ball League (NFL) are clearly ar­tic­u­lated to spec­ta­tors by the ref­eree.

“The NFL should be a role model. Next sea­son, the ref­eree should, re­gard­less of the sit­u­a­tion, speak briefly to the spec­ta­tors,” said Ef­fen­berg.

“It would take maybe five sec­onds to calm around 70,000 peo­ple.

“There have been many good de­ci­sions. Mis­takes only need to be con­sid­ered in terms of how to do things dif­fer­ently in the fu­ture.”

As ex­pected, the head of the DFB is one of the few re­main­ing fans of the sys­tem.

“I still be­lieve in the project, once ev­ery­one clearly de­fines their roles and then sticks to them, I’m pretty sure that this can be some­thing very good for foot­ball,” said DFB Pres­i­dent Reinhard Grindel.

Ger­man soc­cer ref­eree Hell­mut Krug

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