March 29, 2017

Successful Video Assistant Referee Test in France vs Spain

After last December's rather ambivalent impressions of the Video Assistant Referee system at several Club World Cup Games, yesterday's friendly game between France and Spain offers further insights into the VAR experiment we can also expect at the coming World Cup.

German First Group official Felix Zwayer was assisted by VAR Tobias Stieler - UEFA First Group referee as well - in two goal/no-goal decisions:

Both off- and onside decisions were orginally incorrectly taken by the assistant referees, so that Tobias Stieler contacted Felix Zwayer and informed him about the appropriate decisions immensely influencing the game.

In the second incident, the VAR correctly did not intervene: The penalty decision itself seems to be correct or at least clearly supportable. Even though there was an offside position just before the penalty offence, it is at least acceptable to not deem the Spanish player as actively involved in play by interfering with an opponent (he slightly crosses the French defender's running path, but does not clearly obstruct or impede his movements).

In situations where the VAR checks or corrects decisions taken by the match officials, communicating decisions in a convincing and efficient way will be tremendously important. Part of that is the time intervall between the situation to be checked and the decision taken by the referee upon VAR advice. Europe's leading associations consider 10 to 15 seconds as ideal and goal for the future. Here, both decisions required 40 seconds, even though it is unclear whether replays were maybe available relatively late.

What do you think about the situations?

What went right, what can be optimized in future cases?

video source: Arbiter Café (thanks to our user RayHD)


  1. My concern is the third incident. It would be nice to know whether the decision to overrule the flag was correct, because from what I know, you cannot allow goal if there is an offside signalled by AR that can't be overrule using teamwork (in example, pass from the defender, etc.). Or maybe there is an instruction to not whistle even if the flag goes up in goal-scoring incidents? Or maybe such scenario was possible only because the referee didn't manage to whistle in time (before the goal was scored)? Would be nice to know the official protocol in such cases.

    1. My first thought was: well done by Zwayer, not whistling tóó fast for a close situation like this, with an immediate effect. But in case of a whistle before the goal, I guess the correct restart would be dropped ball. Which would be an interesting, right in front of the goal...

    2. You know, this reminds me on tennis. When they established the so-called hawk eye system to check the calls of chair umpires and lines(wo)men, players mostly were happy about that (specially as we are speaking about millimetres in most calls).

      Now what has been a very huge point of discussion in many many games is the following: When a shot well hit the line but the linesman shouted OUT, usually the opponent stops to play - but in many cases, the opponent would also have never reached the ball. If the hawk eye then proofs the linesman's decision incorrect, the chair umpires often face the difficult question "did the opponent stop play because of the shout, or because he/she did not reach it?"...

      The 0:2 situation is comparable: I don't know about you, but if I disallow a goal for offside, I sometimes cannot be sure when exactly the sound of my whistle was audible first. Was it when the ball was still out of the goal? Or while it was already travelling into it?...

      I sincerely hope that the VAR system won't open new fields of surreal discussions that have nothing to do with football.

      Another thing the responsible persons have to take care of: It would be only human if some assistant referees leave the flag down even if they are 80-90% sure that they have detected an offside position (I guess also Achmüller suspected it, but was not 100% sure). Why to take the risk and relying on intuition when there is a VAR who can correct it? Which would, in the worst case, lead to more cases of hopes and goal celebrations which are disappointed half a minute later.

    3. Yeah, I think AR2 will be praised for keeping his flag down at the first incident and AR1 will be blamed for being too quick with flagging offside that wasn't.

  2. According to a DFB article, the VAR has confirmed the penalty call within 10 seconds.

    Statement by Zwayer: "It was a positive test run, because, thanks to the VAR, we were able to evaluate the scenes correctly in all cases. The collaboration with the video assistant has worked precisely, quickly and very professionally. The radio connection to Tobias Stieler had a constant good quality, and we understood each other permanently. When I signaled to the players on the field that I am communicating with the video assistant, they were respectful. We will use the lessons learned to further develop the system in the spirit of football." (translated quote)

  3. Interview with Tobias Stieler on his experiences (maybe you can use a translator):

  4. good article, hopefully contents of this article can be useful for many people.

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