Denmark rulings show how video review at Euro 2024 moved on far from FIFA's original vision for VAR

Sun, Jun 30, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Denmark rulings show how video review at Euro 2024 moved on far from FIFA's original vision for VAR

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - Video review of soccer referees' decisions is testing the patience and faith of coaches, players and fans at the European Championship - as it has all season in club games.

When FIFA tested and shaped the Video Assistant Review (VAR) concept in 2016, there were some defined goals and promises.

Only overturn clear errors. Do not undermine the authority of the match referee. Give decisions within 10 seconds.

How is that working out for everyone two World Cups and two Euros later, plus countless controversies in English Premier League games?

Not well at all, according to Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand.

"In my opinion this is not how football is supposed to be," Hjulmand said late Saturday after a 2-0 loss to Germany that swung on back-to-back technology-aided decisions from the English match officials.

Instead of leading 1-0 in the 48th minute, on Joachim Andersen's goal ruled offside, Denmark was trailing 1-0 in the 53rd, to a penalty awarded against Andersen for handball.

"Yeah, it was an even game. And then in the end, it was the referee who decided the game for us," Andersen said.

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The reaction of Hjulmand and Andersen - who plays for English Premier League club Crystal Palace and well knows the work of referee Michael Oliver and VAR specialist Stuart Attwell - summed up widespread frustration in an era of so many goal celebrations cut short.

This is the tournament, of course, where the joint top scorers through Saturday have three goals and Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku alone has had three goals overruled by VAR.

Referees also can often seem to be remotely controled, going against FIFA's pledge in 2016: "Never lose the authority of referees, never take it out."

"Michael Oliver is not making this decision," Tottenham's Australian coach Ange Postecoglou said of the penalty award during a British broadcast of the Denmark game. "If I hear one more person saying that they're not re-refereeing a game, I will blow up. I don't think that is why we brought in technology for that decision."

The ball clearly struck Andersen's hand though from a hard-hit cross at such a close distance that Oliver did not initially judge it a foul, had he thought an arm was extended in an unnatural position.

While the VAR intervention was decisive, applying the strict laws of the game regarding handball was the issue for some.

"The hand ball law is (expletive)," Alan Shearer, the former England great and BBC broadcaster, wrote on social media.

Hjulmand said he was "so tired of the ridiculous handball rule. Joachim was running normally. It's a normal situation."

VAR officials also were not technically responsible for the offside judged against Denmark's Thomas Delaney, who had a toe or two beyond the last German defender. It was a binary ruling by the multi camera-based Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) system conveyed to the referee from the VAR room.

Lukaku being offside before scoring against Romania was similarly marginal, using a system developed only since 2016.

"SAOT is working very, very well, we are super happy," UEFA's head of refereeing Roberto Rosetti said Friday in a review of match officials' performance in the 36 group-stage games.

After 20 corrections by VAR in those 36 games, the rate was bumped up by the three key overrules - two goals disallowed, one for each team, and the Germany penalty awarded - in the second of the round of 16 games.

The offside tech has been giving decisions within an average of 46 seconds, Rosetti said, while VAR decisions overall, which can include sending the referee to a pitch-side monitor, were averaging one minute, 36 seconds.

Those are faster decisions by far than in the now-infamously erratic Premier League, yet still way beyond FIFA's original wish for decisions within seconds to not disrupt the flow of play.

"We have 10 seconds, or 12 seconds if we want, but it's not good for the game," said top Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers in 2016. Kuipers is at Euro 2024 working for UEFA.

Despite complaints and frustration about VAR, when Premier League clubs were asked on June 6 about scrapping it next season they voted 19-1 to keep it.

Also, the laws on handball and offside can be changed at the annual meeting of the panel known as IFAB. It is run by FIFA and the four British soccer federations.

Ultimately, however, the soccer industry wants to live without more of the epic controversies that are part of its lore.

Did England's decisive third goal against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final really cross the goal-line? Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal helped Argentina beat England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals.

Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann, who was not born until 1987, suggested Saturday the game is now better for its technology.

"I think when you value every situation, and if VAR interrupts the game and you compare it to the former days," Nagelsmann said, "I think it's more fair than if you have no VAR."

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

GRAHAM DUNBAR Dunbar is an Associated Press sports news reporter in Geneva, Switzerland. He focuses on the governing bodies, institutions and politics of international sports. twitter mailto "
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