VAR

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VAR problems causing major headache for Bundesliga

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BERLIN (AP) Accusations of manipulation and incompetence have dogged the Bundesliga’s trial of the video assistant referee this season, forcing the German soccer federation to act quickly to pacify angry team officials.

The DFB dismissed Hellmut Krug as head of its VAR project this week after tabloid claims he influenced two key decisions in a game between Schalke, his hometown club, and visiting Wolfsburg on Oct. 28.

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Lutz Michael Froehlich, the head of the federation’s refereeing department, will take over.

Krug and Marco Fritz, the video assistant operating in Cologne that day last month, denied the allegations, and the DFB said it was impossible for supervisors to intervene during games. But the federation evidently felt a fresh start was needed after weeks of controversy since VAR started this season.

“The pilot phase of the video assistant has relentlessly exposed problems that have long existed in some areas and must now be finally resolved,” league president Reinhard Rauball said on Tuesday.

VAR was supposed to help referees avoid mistakes and ensure fairness in games, but even at the start there were technical problems that hindered video assistants’ ability to make the right calls in Cologne, where they sit for games.

Video assistants were forced to make offside decisions without the aid of computer-generated lines because of a flaw in the technology.

Not all video-assisted decisions have been clear-cut and there have been other controversies, too. Cologne felt particularly aggrieved over a goal scored by Borussia Dortmund in their game in September, awarded after video consultation despite referee Felix Brych blowing his whistle before the ball crossed the line – signaling a break in play.

Not using VAR has also led to anger and frustration. Stuttgart was the victim last Saturday, when Dzenis Burnic was sent off early in its 3-1 loss in Hamburg with his second yellow card. Referee Guido Winkmann acknowledged after the game that it was unjust decision.

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“It’s a game-deciding decision after 12 minutes that’s totally false,” said Stuttgart coach Hannes Wolf, who blasted the video assistant’s inability to get involved. “The person in Cologne can’t say anything. I find that ridiculous, that there’s someone there professionally who’s not allowed say anything. It doesn’t make any sense.”

At the start of the season, the DFB said the technology was only to be used “when the referee on the pitch has made a clear wrong decision or missed a decisive incident” around goals scored, penalties or free kicks, or during substitutions.

Kicker magazine, however, reported that the federation wrote on Oct. 25 to the clubs saying VAR had also been used in other instances since the fifth round of games, a so-called “corrective course” over which the clubs had not been informed.

“The whole communication from the DFB is catastrophic at the moment,” Borussia Moenchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl said. “If you have a test phase and want to change the whole system, then that’s fair enough. But everyone should also know about it.”

Fans are also upset, frustrated by the breaks in games while referees consult monitors on the sidelines, then by goals reversed after celebrations, or other decisions going against their teams – even when the decisions are technically correct.

The DFB has had other problems with its referees, too. Manuel Graefe was reprimanded last week for making allegations of nepotism and a lack of transparency against Krug and Herbert Fandel, the chairman of the referees committee, when it came to selection for games.

“The two of them threw together the referee list how they wanted it,” Graefe told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper in August.

Graefe stuck to his position last month, saying in a personal statement that he wanted more “justice and transparency” and that “the influence of Herbert Fandel and Hellmut Krug unfortunately still means the opposite.”

Now that Krug has been removed, the DFB hopes the attention will return to the soccer, though it will need to sort out the problems affecting VAR before that happens.

“Every product is only as good as how it is processed and communicated,” former referee Markus Merk said.

Dortmund goes top with a little help from VAR (video)

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Borussia Dortmund took out its angst from a midweek loss to Spurs at Wembley by hammering Koln at the Westfalenstadion on Sunday.

BVB got a bit of help from Video Assistant Referee on its second goal of the 5-0 blowout, which kept Koln dead-last on the table with zero points.

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Sokratis Papastathopoulos made the score 2-0 in first half stoppage time, though the referee initially blew the whistle at the thought of a handball from Sokratis.

VAR reversed the call, and Dortmund went on to win 5-0. BVB is back atop the Bundesliga with 10 goals scored and the side is yet to concede in league play.

Maximilian Philipp and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both recorded braces for Peter Bosz’s BVB, while USMNT teen Christian Pulisic came on for Andriy Yarmolenko in the 66th minute.

La Liga & Serie A: Video replay used in Juve win, Atleti draws

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A roundup of Saturday’s action from around Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ MORE: PL roundup — United rolls past Swansea, Arsenal falls to Stoke ]

Girona 2-2 Atletico Madrid

Everything that could go wrong did on Saturday for Atletico Madrid, but it was Girona’s gain as the promotion side began its La Liga journey with a draw. A first-half brace from Cristhian Stuani gave the hosts a 2-0 lead inside the opening 25 minutes, and from there, matters were made worse for Atleti when Antoine Griezmann was sent off in the 67th minute after picking up a second yellow card. Angel Correa pulled a goal back with 12 minutes remaining for Diego Simeone’s side, while Jose Gimenez tied the match in the 85th minute.

Celta Vigo 2-3 Real Sociedad

Future LA FC forward Carlos Vela played a key role for Real Sociedad in their comeback win over Celta Vigo. The Mexican international drew a penalty kick with two minutes to play in regulation, before Willian Jose buried the ensuing spot kick to give Sociedad the victory. Celta Vigo led at home twice on Saturday, but the visitors showed their resiliency, scoring twice in the final 10 minutes of play.

Sevilla 1-1 Espanyol

Clement Lenglet and Léo Baptistão scored on the afternoon in the draw, and despite Sevilla’s overwhelming possession the hosts couldn’t muster up enough to secure three points in the opener. The home side was reduced to 10 men with under 10 minutes remaining as well when second-half substitute Ever Banega was sent off.

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Athletic Bilbao vs. Getafe — 12:15 p.m. ET
Barcelona vs. Real Betis — 2:15 p.m. ET
Deportivo La Coruna vs. Real Madrid — 4:15 p.m. ET


Juventus 3-0 Cagliari

Everything was status quo for Juventus as they kicked off another season in Serie A as the reigning Italian champions. The Bianconeri controlled the flow of play throughout the match, limiting Cagliari to just two chances on target. Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala struck in the first half to put Juve up 2-0 at the break, while Gonzalo Higuain tacked on a third finish in the second stanza.

Cagliari’s best chance came when Duje Cop was taken down in the box, prompting referee Fabio Maresca to utilize VAR for the first time in a Serie A match. After mulling the decision for a moment, Maresca pointed to the penalty spot, but Diego Farias’ attempt was saved by Gianluigi Buffon.

Hellas Verona 1-3 Napoli

Napoli boasted one of the top attacks in Europe last season, and the club didn’t waste any time in picking up where they left off. An own goal kicked things off for Napoli in the first half, before Arkadiusz Milik and Faouzi Ghoulam put the finishing touches on the match. Meanwhile, a late red card from Elseid Hysaj allowed Hellas to score their lone goal of the afternoon through Giampaolo Pazzini’s penalty finish.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Atalanta vs. Roma — 12 p.m. ET
Bologna vs. Torino — 2:45 p.m. ET
Crotone vs. AC Milan — 2:45 p.m. ET
Inter Milan vs. Fiorentina — 2:45 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. SPAL — 2:45 p.m. ET
Sampdoria vs. Benevento — 2:45 p.m. ET
Sassuolo vs. Genoa — 2:45 p.m. ET
Udinese vs. Chievo Verona — 2:45 p.m. ET

Video replay gets tested its first week in MLS

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With fans and other leagues watching, Major League Soccer has introduced video replay in dramatic style.

The Video Assistant Referee, or VAR for short, ruled out a goal in FC Dallas’ first-ever loss to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.

The VAR disallowed Maximiliano Urruti’s late goal for Dallas after video evidence showed that forward Cristian Colman fouled Union goalkeeper John McCarthy before the shot and he wasn’t able to get to the ball. Philadelphia won 3-1.

The decision took about two minutes.

The VAR also had an impact on Sunday’s game between the Portland Timbers and the LA Galaxy when Gyasi Zardes’ apparent go-ahead goal in the 11th minute was disallowed because of a handball.

The goal would have given the Galaxy the lead and arguably could have swayed the momentum to Los Angeles. Instead, the Timbers went on to win 3-1.

“I think everyone has their opinion on it,” said Portland defender Liam Ridgewell. “But, obviously, it’s coming into the game and it worked in our favor. Ask me next time when it doesn’t. It was great today. So we’ll wait and see next time.”

The goals in Portland and Philadelphia were the only two that activated video review.

“I saw it after the game and still I have to say that it generates a lot of thoughts, but we respect it,” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja told reporters. “I have to be honest and say if the referee had the chance to review it, the (Video Assistant Referee), they made the decision, I have to assume that it is correct.”

There are many eyes on MLS’s rollout of the VAR, who serves as the fifth member of the officiating crew at any given game.

The VAR at each MLS stadium monitors all video feeds of the game that are available, focusing on “potential clear and obvious errors or serious missed incidents” involving goals, penalty kicks, straight red cards and mistaken identity.

If a review is required, the VAR will alert the referee on the field, who will make a box gesture with his hands to indicate the VAR is examining a possible error. All final calls will lie with the head referee.

Two other top-tier leagues will add a VAR soon. The German Bundesliga will debut video replay for the season opener between Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen on Aug. 18. The Italian Serie A will also introduce its version after adding goal-line technology last season.

Video replay is currently being tested on the international level, used in the Under-20 World Cup and the Confederations Cup in Russia. FIFA, soccer’s governing body, plans to use it at the 2018 World Cup.

Soccer’s adoption of the technology is not without its detractors, some who worry it will have unintended consequences – like making games longer.

Greg Gordon, a Glasgow-based soccer scout and longtime journalist who writes for the website howtowatchfootball .co.uk, is one of those closely watching how MLS applies video replay after seeing some of the controversy caused by its use on the international level.

“The beauty of football – unlike maybe some American sports, which I also love – is that there’s a constant ebb and flow to the game,” he said. “And actually the use of video refereeing, as we’ve already seen in a few instances, can really lead to the breakup of the speed of the game. But it also can really lead to what you could call catastrophic moments of just mass confusion.”

And indeed, there seemed to be some confusion among those watching MLS games this weekend about when it could be used, or whether it should be used.

In Portland, where supporters are known for their chants and songs throughout matches, fans chanted “V-A-R” after what they saw as a foul on forward Fanendo Adi by Galaxy defender Dave Romney.

Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe said after Sunday’s game that he’s taking a wait-and-see approach .

“I haven’t seen a replay yet (of the disallowed goal). But I think it’s something, VAR getting introduced, it’s something that is going to change the flow of the game a little bit. So it’s something that we’re going to have to get used to as players. You get that energy of, `OK, We got our second goal we, we’re going to go up, OK we’ve gotta defend now.’ Then all of the sudden it’s, `Wait a couple of minutes,’ and it gets called back and you’re in a different kind of mindset and it’s tied again,” Rowe said.

“It just adds an extra layer to it and it’s something that as players, it’s the law now so we’ve just got to get used to it.”

MLS to start using VAR this weekend. What can we expect?

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Ah, it’s been about a month or so since we’ve complained about Video Assistant Referees (VAR).

Time to start flexing your frowns once again, folks.

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VARs will come in to Major League Soccer for the round of games on Aug. 5-6, after the All-Star Game on Aug. 2 in Chicago which marks the traditional midway point of the season.

It will be used for all of the remaining MLS games, plus MLS Cup playoffs and MLS Cup itself.

Your first comment is probably something along the lines of: ‘why the heck is this happening halfway through a season?’

Yeah, I’m with you, especially as decisions in the opening half of the MLS season obviously weren’t scrutinized in the same way, leading to plenty of points either falling by the wayside or gained advantageously by teams. But we don’t live in an ideal world and here we are.

Still, it’s happening, so let’s see what we can expect from the biggest set of VAR tests. The video below from the folks at MLSsoccer.com — featuring Howard Webb who is now the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) manager of VAR operations — does a great job at explaining everything and here are the main takeaways to remember.

  • At each MLS game a VAR (fifth official) will be located in a booth and have access to all available broadcast replays
  • VARs can only help on decisions involving goals, direct red cards, penalty kick and mistaken identity
  • VARs will be able to talk with the referee via a communications system and suggest a review of an incident
  • The referee can then either re-watch the incident on a sideline monitor or apply the VARs decision to keep or overturn the decision
  • If there is a stoppage of play following the incident and then lay restarts, the incident cannot be checked and play must go on

MLS will have the eyes of the world on it to see exactly how this system works over an elongated period of time. We all saw the issues at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia which led to many pundits and fans calling for it to be shelved ahead of the 2018 World Cup next summer.

How well it works in MLS could have a huge bearing in how VAR is implemented in Russia next summer, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino insisting it will be used.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) will be reviewing all of the findings in MLS over the next four to five months before then deciding when to update the laws of the game.

MLS has always been available to be the guinea pig of the soccer world with the foam spray used by refs introduced in North America’s top-flight, plus goal-line technology and more. So far, so good.

There are plenty of VAR skeptics out there following the Confed Cup this summer, but maybe MLS can help ease some of that worry for soccer purists.