By Alan Biggs
The final of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup highlighted how video refereeing can benefit football – and why there is no need for match referees to view replays.
It was the method strongly advocated by You Are The Ref that produced a swift and correct resolution to the only potential controversy in England’s 1-0 win over Venezuela.
When highly experienced Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers awarded Venezuela a second half penalty and was immediately confronted by protests, he clearly signalled for the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to review the incident. A decision was quickly made upholding the original decision.
That the penalty was missed – or saved, brilliantly, by Freddie Woodman – was not the most far-reaching talking point afterwards, even though it decided the outcome in England’s favour.
If the system favoured by England’s two most senior refereeing figures had been operated, Kuipers would have been subjected to a very public reviewing of his own decision.
David Elleray, technical director of the International Football Association Board, and PGMOL chief Mike Riley have supported such an approach. This would have required Kuipers to watch replays in full view of the players, crowd and a global television audience.
Instead of being in a highly pressurised position, Kuipers was able to trust a colleague and everyone could see the right call had been made.
For this to be demonstrated in such high-profile circumstances is powerful ammunition for those, like Keith Hackett, who would like to see the same system – as already operated successfully in Holland – being adopted in the Premier League.
“There is absolutely no need for the match referee to go to the touchline,” said Hackett. “This is exactly how VAR needs to be used in the future.
“Kuipers is one of the world’s best referees and he was in a great position to award the penalty. He remained calm while some England players protested and went to the VAR, using a clear rectangular hand movement to notify everyone what he was doing.
“The VAR supported the penalty award over the communications system, having looked at replays and confirmed the foul.”
YATR colleague Roger Dilkes said: “Using the system this way keeps the referee’s focus on the players around him. How could he check what might be going on behind his back if he is required to come to the side to watch a screen?”
See more discussion on this in Monday’s Ref Show when I am joined by Mark Halsey and Mark Lawrenson