MILAN (Reuters) – The use of video replay technology to help referees has again become a contentious issue in Serie A following a series of incidents in the opening few weeks of the season.
Referees and the pitchside monitors are again likely to be in the spotlight as Serie A resumes at the weekend with leaders Juventus visiting Udinese on Saturday and second-placed Napoli hosting Sassuolo on Sunday.
Juventus, already six points clear, have a 100 percent record this season with seven wins in Serie A and two in the Champions League.
The debate is centring not so much on whether the VAR (video assistant referees) system should be used, but how often.
The use of VAR was authorised in March by soccer’s law-making body IFAB after a series of trials around the world,
including in Serie A last season.
It was adopted and used by FIFA at the World Cup and was generally hailed as a success, especially in objective decisions such as offsides.
The World Cup largely managed to avoid some of the issues which plagued Serie A last season, such as long delays in referees making decisions which were often reversed two or three minutes after a goal had been awarded.
Italian media say Serie A referees have been told to make less use of the system this season and follow the IFAB protocol that it should only be used to correct “clear and obvious mistakes”.
Yet they now find themselves under fire from clubs for failing to review incidents frequently enough.
“I have always considered it a very positive innovation for football,” said Torino president Urbano Cairo. “But I have started thinking that VAR is not the right tool if it’s only used partially.”
“The VAR was used much more last season,” added Cairo, who also suggested that coaches be allowed to challenge a certain number of decisions as in tennis. “We should use it more often, not just for serious mistakes.”
Torino were involved in one of the biggest VAR disputes of the season when Alejandro Berenguer had a goal disallowed for offside at Udinese last month.
Their complaints were two-fold — that Berenguer was not offside and that referee Paolo Valeri blew for the infringement before the ball had entered the net, preventing the incident from being reviewed.
In another incident on Sunday, Fiorentina were awarded a penalty against Atalanta after Federico Chiesa went flying over after running across the path of Rafael Toloi, who did everything possible to avoid contact.
In addition to claiming that Chiesa exaggerated his fall, Atalanta were baffled as to why the referee gave the spot kick without a VAR review.
“We fought hard for the introduction of VAR but if it’s not used in an episode like this, then what is it for?” asked Atalanta director Luca Percassi.
However, the criticisms over VAR were dismissed by Marcello Nicchi, head of the Italian referee’s association (AIA).
“We have to stop complaining: the VAR works and everyone recognises it,” he said earlier this week. “Everyone else envies us for having this instrument and they come to Italy to study its application.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis)