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Why football’s VAR needs to add hockey’s challenge system

Controversy is rare when it comes to the video umpire in hockey PIC: Ady Kerry

By The Hockey Paper

The football World Cup has provided plenty of entertainment in Russia – and confusion in equal numbers when it’s come to the video referee (VAR), football’s first use of video technology in a bid to reach more correct decisions.

Here, The Hockey Paper rounds up what’s been said in the media when it’s come to referencing hockey, which has used the video assistant since it was first trialled at the 2009 Champions Trophy and then implemented at the 2010 Hockey World Cup.

Former Dutch international Jacques Brinkman, writing in his De Telegraaf column, said that there were simply too many cooks in the VAR loft.

“In contrast to football, there is just one man or woman in a loft with a number of screens in front of a hockey match. Hilarious to see that in football the thought prevails that four people must act as team-VAR. As if eight eyes see more than two,” he writes.

According to NOS, the Dutch broadcaster, Fifa has to learn from the confusion surrounding VAR and refine the rules “to create a well-functioning system”.

NOS spoke to video umpire Coen van Bunge, who compared the use of VAR in both hockey and football, with the former sport finding little in terms of controversy.

“With us it is much more transparent,” says Van Bunge. “In addition, the teams themselves must apply for the VAR, which is the big difference why there is so little hassle.

“Per team it is possible to request the video referral once per game, and if the call is good, then your turn will remain. If it was a wrong guess, you will lose your chance, which makes the teams much more careful in their requests.

“In certain situations – a goal or not, a penalty ball or not – the referee can request the help of the video, and the VAR will then decide on the final decision.

“In football, the VAR says to the ref: take a look at the images again, which we do not have: in hockey, the video ref is the decisive factor in the decision.”

Sam Quek, the former GB Olympic-winning defender, said in her Metro column that she was left “scratching my head as to why Fifa commissioned its own completely unique system.”

She writes: “For me, the system that needs rolling out is the one used in hockey, in which each team is given one video challenge per match. If your challenge is successful you will keep it. If not, you lose it.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Liew, writing in The Independent, “tentatively” predicts that VAR will quickly erode two of football’s tacit conventions.

“That non-violent infringements off the ball almost always go unpunished, and that the benefit of the doubt in penalty-box challenges generally goes to the defending team.

“Grappling in the penalty area will eventually ebb away; it will become harder to impede the run of an attacking player in the area; and so over time, the cross and especially the set piece – such a lucrative source of goals during this World Cup – will grow exponentially in importance. It may, indeed, become the key method of scoring, much as it is in field hockey.”

How often do you see genuine, deliberate handballs was insidethegames’ Liam Morgan viewpoint. “As rarely as an admission of wrongdoing from the World Cup host nation whenever claims of state-sponsored doping are put to senior officials,” he added in his column.

“A possible solution would be to make all handballs in the box, deliberate or not, a foul. This works in hockey, where a penalty corner is awarded when the ball touches a player’s feet – even if it has been smashed at them from close range.”

Food for thought – and, clearly, changes abound for Fifa in how it uses VAR. Perhaps, one week after the World Cup final, officials will look to London when the hockey World Cup pushes back into action.

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