Those of you who’ve watched any of the Premier League football so far this season will likely have an opinion on that sport’s introduction of VAR – or what Rugby League fans know as the video ref.
The round-ball code has flirted with the idea of introducing video replays to officiating for years, but it’s only during the last few months that the changes have made much of an impact.
Many pundits, players and managers don’t seem keen on it, and plenty will tell you that the mistakes are still happening, but the FA and Premier League have remained steadfast in their backing of the new system.
We introduced our video referee system in 1996 and, barring a little gradual evolution, the format remains largely the same.
If the referee isn’t sure if a try has been scored, he stops the clock and brings play – and celebrations – to a halt so that the video referee can be consulted.
Yes, we have the on-field call now – where previously we had benefit of the doubt – but if we’re being honest with ourselves, the way it works hasn’t changed much in the last 20-odd years.
And though football is grappling with its own issues, their video refereeing is far slicker than ours.
The first big difference is that play isn’t technically stopped. The referee and his assistants make a decision as they did in previous seasons and you will often see a goal chalked up before anything else happens.
I am not a fan of VAR in football, and though I do think the video referee has a place in Rugby League, it definitely needs some work to catch up.
Here’s what we should change.
First up, let’s allow the referee and touch judges to make a decision based on what they’ve seen unfold, and not just default to a replay if they are unsure.
The video referee should only come into play on the basis of a captain’s appeal.
The two teams should have one opportunity each half to appeal a try-scoring decision, and 30 seconds from the decision being made to raise their objection.
If their objection is upheld – in other words, if they were right to appeal – then they retain their right to appeal in that half.
If their appeal is thrown out then they lose that right until the next half.
This takes the dilemma out of the officials’ hands and allows them to just make calls on what they see.
It would also put an end to frivolous appeals that just waste everyone’s time; a player isn’t going to use his team’s appeal if he knows he doesn’t have a case, but currently he doesn’t have anything to lose.
I’d also limit the review window to keep things moving.
Video referees should have 60 seconds to find evidence to overturn the referee’s decision.
This will stop us spending half of our Thursday and Friday evenings watching slow motion replays of knock ons and obstructions for four or five minutes at a time.
If you can’t see anything wrong in a minute then the decision stands.
We’re a fast sport and that’s one of the best things about Rugby League, so why are we letting the video referee slow it all down?
These changes wouldn’t cost anything to implement, nor disrupt how teams approach matches (like some other recent rule changes have), but they would give our old fashioned, slow-moving video refereeing system a much needed reboot.
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