On the twelfth matchday of the Bundesliga, it became clear that there is an urgent need for improvement when dealing with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), often referred to as video evidence. Even around five years after the system was introduced in Germany’s top division, serious wrong decisions are still being made.
It is hard to believe that Eintracht Frankfurt was not awarded a penalty in the 2-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund. The TV pictures are clear: BVB professional Karim Adeyemi pushed his opponent Jesper Lindström to the ground. The anger of Frankfurt is justified, fans and experts are stunned.
However, it is not a technical problem. The VAR has made football fairer, there are far fewer wrong decisions than before. According to the German Football Association (DFB), VAR prevented 110 mistakes last season. His introduction was correct and important. If the technology is mature, you have to use it. Especially in an industry where billions are at stake – and not just about football romance.
Despite all the technology, the human factor has remained. Errors occur in the interpretation of the video images and the communication between the VAR in Cologne and the team of referees in the stadium. You can never rule this out.
Also because the video referee is under time pressure when making his decisions: The stadium spectators and the players have little or no understanding for long interruptions. The stress factor is enormous in these moments. It’s a trade-off between speed and security.
Referee Sascha Stegemann admitted his mistake after the game and announced that the video referee would work it out. That honors him.
According to Stegemann, four standard cameras were used in the “check process” of checking the disputed situation in the penalty area. Other perspectives were not used. This was a mistake.
In clear situations like the one in Frankfurt, decisions must be made as reliably as possible in the future. Despite all the justified criticism and the discussion about lost emotions in the stadium, the VAR should not be abolished.
Its use must be optimized. So-called “perception errors” by the video referee, as on Saturday evening, are too serious for the Bundesliga to live with. But they cannot be ruled out.