“Collina’s heirs” are reassured
This time the VAR is not an issue
By Alex Feuerherdt
11/07/2022 8:21 am
While the option of a “challenge” is brought into play in the debate about the video assistants, the interaction between referees and VAR works well on the 13th matchday of the Bundesliga. The video assistants are particularly helpful in Berlin and Dortmund.
On the last match day and in the days that followed, the discussion about the video assistants boiled up again, triggered by the fact that the VAR did not intervene in the game between Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund, which was difficult to understand, after an unpunished foul by Karim Adeyemi to Jesper Lindström in the BVB penalty area. A check at the Cologne Video Assist Center, which was completed too quickly and was based on apparently poorly selected camera angles, meant that the referee’s mistake on the field was not corrected.
Such an omission regularly brings to the fore those who would like to abolish the VAR again. Incidentally, this is by no means only the case in Germany, there are also debates in other countries, some of which are even more vehement, for example in England. At the same time, more and more leagues around the world are introducing the video assistant because, despite all the criticism, it helps to significantly reduce the number of wrong decisions – and that’s what the clubs and associations as clients and financiers are primarily concerned with. The perspective and interests of many fans are different.
Is there a possibility of a “challenge”?
Below the unrealistic maximum requirement to dissolve the VAR instance, there are various suggestions for its improvement. These include general demands such as a “clear line” and a “uniform intervention threshold”. While that’s understandable, it’s also extremely difficult to achieve given a set of rules with relatively large margins of discretion and gray areas when evaluating tackles and handballs. More concrete and tangible is the idea of giving the teams a kind of veto right, a “challenge” like in American football.
That means teams would then have the option to request a review of a decision themselves, for example once per half, with the option of a further challenge if the review leads to a change in that decision. Indeed, this would relieve the VAR of the often difficult task of deciding whether or not to recommend an on-field review to the referee. Jochen Drees, the project manager for the video assistants in Germany, was basically open to this idea in a conversation with the “kicker” during the week. However, he also pointed out that there would be trouble again if no objection was possible due to used challenges in the case of a clear error. And he made it clear that such a change in the VAR protocol would be a matter for FIFA, which currently cannot gain anything from the challenge option.
Correct VAR interventions in Berlin and Dortmund
Regardless of these discussions and suggestions, the 13th Bundesliga matchday was much quieter and better for the referees and their video assistants than the weekend before. For example, in the encounter between Hertha BSC and FC Bayern Munich (2: 3), the attentive video assistant Sören Storks rightly intervened when the referee Bastian Dankert, who was sovereign overall, gave a certainly unfortunate, but nevertheless punishable kick after 42 minutes by Benjamin Pavard in the heel of Hertha’s Davie Selke in the Munich penalty area. After the on-field review, the hosts were awarded a penalty, which Selke converted.
The intervention of VAR Pascal Müller in the game Borussia Dortmund – VfL Bochum (3:0), also after 42 minutes, was correct. After a duel in the Bochum penalty area between Danilo Soares and Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna, referee Tobias Stieler initially decided on a penalty for BVB, as he had done half an hour earlier after Vassilis Lampropoulos had fouled Donyell Malen. But unlike the first penalty whistle, the second was unjustified because Reyna had sought and brought about contact with Soares with her right foot and lifted off with her left quite voluntarily. So Soares had done nothing to cause his opponent to fall. Therefore, Stieler withdrew his penalty decision after the on-field review.
Dangerous scissor blow or punishable handball?
In the FC Augsburg game against Eintracht Frankfurt (1:2), referee Deniz Aytekin was also right when, shortly after the break, he assessed Evan Ndicka’s attempted overhead kick at a dizzy height just in front of the Augsburg goal as a dangerous game. However, there was an on-field review, which was due to the fact that Augsburg’s Mergim Berisha, who was in the immediate vicinity, had possibly played the ball with his upper arm a split second later. However, Aytekin rightly stuck to his original decision, which he also made transparent with gestures: First there was the scissor hit from Ndicka – correctly punished with an indirect free kick – then Berisha made contact with the ball, which from the referee’s point of view was also made with the shoulder .
The referee also went to the monitor on the edge of the field in the opening game of this day’s game between Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfB Stuttgart (3:1) on Friday evening, after just 18 minutes. Matthias Jöllenbeck had shown the Gladbacher the yellow card after a scuffle between Stuttgart’s Waldemar Anton and Ramy Bensebaini before a corner kick for the hosts, but looked at the dispute again in the review area after consulting VAR Tobias Welz. In the end, however, he stuck to his original decision, i.e. the warning.
Bensebaini gets off lightly
Bensebaini could consider himself lucky because the pictures actually spoke for a sending off. What they showed was less a tearing away from Anton, who had been holding him, not just pushing or pushing away, but rather a swing and a swinging motion with the right arm, resulting in a hit in the neck area. But Jöllenbeck still saw room for discretion, maybe he lacked the last conviction to pronounce the most serious personal punishment in this situation and to decimate a team early on. A red card would have been appropriate.
Overall, the interaction between the referees and their assistants in Cologne was right this weekend. The camera angles that the video assistants showed the referees during the on-field reviews were also meaningful and clear. Irrespective of this, the exciting question remains as to whether the discussion that has been initiated about the challenge option will pick up speed in the near future. One thing is certain: the referees will always have the last word after going into the review area, which includes the possibility that a team does not agree with the final decision. But that’s always the case when rules are interpreted and applied.