Saturday’s Hyundai A-League clash between Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC was an historic occasion.
And no, not because Wellington drew with league-leader Sydney at home, but because the A-League became the first professional domestic soccer competition in the world to use the video assistant referee system.
To put it simple, the A-League acted as a test guinea pig for FIFA, but I like it.
The VAR was introduced at the start of last weekend’s round 26 game between Melbourne City and Adelaide and, rightfully so, it went unnoticed until the second clash of the round.
The VAR was used in awarding Sydney a penalty in the one-all draw with Phoenix.
The visitors swung in a corner which was cleared by the Phoenix defence.
Sydney’s reviewed penalty against Phoenix allayed some fears in regards to how the VAR would work and also how long it would take.
It took 16 seconds from the original handball for Shaun Evans to blow his whistle for offside and pause the game and a further 14 seconds to signal the square TV hand gesture.
Fifty seconds later, Evans was pointing to the penalty spot.
If one 80-second interruption a round remains the norm, the VAR blueprint will be only a minor inconvenience — an inconvenience which many will accept.
The use of the VAR system may be called on by the referee to provide assistance on four categories of match-changing decisions/incidents: goal/no goal decisions, penalty/no penalty decisions, direct red cards and mistaken identity.
Sydney was obviously the first team to benefit from the VAR and Sky Blues captain Alex Brosque was adamant it was a positive to the game, but it would initially face a few teething problems.
‘‘If the video referee had come back and shown that it was a handball and they had gone on and scored, then fair play to them. You have to play the whistle, it’s what you’re taught as a youngster,’’ Brosque said.
‘‘It will take a bit of time to get used to and I think there will be some initial teething problems, but they’ve had enough time to go through it and fix the potential flaws.’’
FFA officials were aiming to make decisions within 40 seconds of the incidents, but the first decision took one minute and 20 seconds to be made.
The VAR worked well on Saturday — it was quick, easy and effective.
So what has been the delay in implementing the VAR or a similar solution in the past five or 10 years?
For some time now sports such as cricket, tennis, rugby, basketball, bull riding and even fencing have all used video technology to determine an outcome or significant moment in a sporting event.
I know it is not great to dwell on the past, but take a trip down memory lane and look at out how our life could have changed, for better or worse, if the VAR was around at that point in time.
1. Fabian Grosso
Does that name ring a bell?
He was the defender that questionably ‘dived’ and was awarded a penalty during the Socceroos’ World Cup clash against Italy in 2006.
If we had the VAR, things could have been different. Italy might not have received the 95th minute to send Azzurri into the quarter-final and Australia packing.
2. Frank Lampard
During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Chelsea midfielder and England international Frank Lampard blatantly scored a goal for his country against Germany, but it was not given.
Lampard’s shot rattled the crossbar and clearly crossed the line before it bounced back out, but the referee did not acknowledge it as England trailed Germany 2-1 in the 37th minute.
FIFA has since introduced goal line technology for such incidents, but had we had the VAR in 2010, it is fair to say England would not have lost to Germany 4-1 in the round of 16.
3. Besart Berisha
The Hyundai A-League’s most prolific goal scorer was involved in a controversial decision which won Brisbane Roar the 2011-12 grand final.
With scores tied at one-all in the 94th minute, Berisha scrapped and persevered but following his air swing attempt at goal, the marksman fell and was awarded a penalty to win back-to-back grand finals for Brisbane.
Anyway, we have got to move on from the past and look forward to the future and I believe that VAR is a step in the right direction.
It may have taken its time, but the football fraternity has finally gotten behind technology in sport and now are starting to adopt it into the world game.