David Elleray has admitted VAR has “had an impact on the flow of the game” but says that will have to be accepted as the game prioritises getting the “right decision”.
The former referee, in his role as the technical director of the rule-making International Football Association Board (Ifab), has been at the heart of developing VAR as an aid to referees in eliminating “clear and obvious errors” from the game.
Although Elleray believes that the technology has “broadly benefited football” and points to a number of successes, each VAR decision takes time – Premier League matches regularly experience breaks that last for minutes – and that is unlikely to change.
“It’s clear that football is fairer, but it’s also clear that VAR has had an impact on the flow of the game,” Elleray said. “If you are going to stop the game to look at a replay that involves a stop in the flow of the game.
“Very early on in the VAR discussions people said maybe you should put a time limit on how long reviews should be but that would be to undermine the purpose of VAR, which is to deal with a clear and obvious error.
“If we said you can only take 30 seconds, then sometimes you need to look at different angles. What we normally say is that the longer it takes the less likely that it’s a clear and obvious error but … ultimately football’s expectation of reviews is that at the end it’s the right decision.”
Elleray said that no major changes were expected to VAR in the next year, although Fifa is continuing to study the possibility of automating offside decisions, which should make them quicker, and with “encouraging results”.
He also pointed to qualitative changes to the game he believes VAR has made possible, such as reducing diving in the box and the mobbing of referees.
“There are fewer games decided by clear and obvious errors by the match officials,” Elleray said. “There are fewer players getting away with violence on the field behind the referee’s back. I think some of the other benefits are less well publicised but there is evidence that there’s a significant reduction of simulation in the penalty area.
“There’s also a general reduction in players mobbing and arguing with referees because they know very well any contentious decision relating to a penalty or a goal is going to be checked or reviewed by the VAR. Behaviour is better.”
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