The referee’s a w…ide angle lens!

It’s Cup Final day and we’re looking at the IP of VAR

15th May 2021

This afternoon Leicester City and Chelsea will battle it out for the FA Cup, which, as it was first contested during the 1871–72 season, is the oldest club competition in the world.

In contrast, one of the newest aspects of football is Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology, introduced during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

VAR is a system designed to improve the quality of refereeing decisions to avoid controversial mistakes. A good example is the qualification round for the FIFA World Cup 2010. But for a goal in the 104th minute from William Gallas, France (Runners-up at the previous tournament in 2006, and considered one of the favourites going into 2010), were at the brink of missing out on qualification for the tournament at the hands of the Republic of Ireland (at the time ranked 36th in the world). During the build of the decisive goal, Thierry Henry blatantly handled the ball to keep it in play.

Despite furious remonstrations by the Irish players, with now replay available to the match officials, the goal stood, and a whole nation’s dream of playing in the knockout stages of the World Cup was in tatters due to a poor refereeing decision.

ex Arsenal cheat Thierry Henry robbing the Republic of Ireland a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa.

Roke Manor Research (developers of Hawk-Eye) filed the original patent for the VAR technology (WO0141884 — Ball tracking and trajectory prediction) back in 1999. After successfully implementing video replays/television match officials in Cricket, Tennis, Rugby and American football, finally FIFA have come-around and technology has slowly been integrated into the ‘beautiful game’.

Traditionally, the football world had resisted the entry of new technologies such as VAR for fear that a Pandora’s box might be opened which will negatively affect the flow of live games by causing abrupt stops in a sport that is best known for its free-flowing nature. In fact, VAR has even been described as a “slap in the face for the long-suffering paying supporter” because of delays which taint the live-viewing experience of the fans.

However, that stance has softened in recent times, with the belief that it will promote transparency and efficiency in decision making taking priority over the concerns expressed by its detractors. We can see that VAR has grown in influence in the year following its use at the World Cup. It has now been adopted by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the body that organises Europe’s premier club cup competition — the Champions League — and in various leagues such as the Spanish La Liga, the German Bundesliga, and the Italian Serie A. The English Premier League voted against its use for the 2018/19 season but began using it the very next year after mounting international pressure.

If the current filing trend as seen in CPC heading A63B71/0605 - Indicating or scoring devices for ball games, aiding decision makers and devices using detection means facilitating arbitration continues we could be seeing technology popping up across a wider range of sports. Filings in this area have increased over 1,200% over the last thirty years, with an 825% increase since 2009, and over 300% increase over the last 5 years.

Prediction for this afternoon’s game? Well, more hope than expectation, but I’m predicting a Leicester win and a VAR disallowed goal breaking Chelsea hearts!

What do you think the score will be? Let us know on Social.

Update: I should’ve but Money on it! Poor Ben Chilwell, poor Chelsea fans. Reaction Of Chelsea Fans After VAR Cancelled Goal in FA Cup Final — YouTube

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