Refereeing in spotlight as VAR sparks Women's World Cup controversy

Refereeing in spotlight as VAR sparks Women's World Cup controversy
Copyright REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
By Lauren Chadwick
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VAR or Video Assistant Referee has taken a hit after changing multiple results at the Women's World Cup.


VAR or Video Assistant Referee has taken a hit after influencing multiple results at the Women's World Cup.

In a dramatic round of 16 game, England benefited from two VAR reviews that were fiercely protested by Cameroon.

Ellen White's goal for England was allowed after a VAR review determined she was not offside, and Ajara Nchout had her goal for Cameroon disallowed after her fellow player Gaëlle Enganamouit was determined to have been offside in the build-up.

Cameroon's players delayed play and appeared frustrated and incredulous over the decision.

After the match, many criticised the behaviour of Cameroon's players.

This is the second football World Cup to use VAR, a new technology that sees video assistant referees support the main referee in a centralised operations room with multiple screens that display different video angles of the game.

Referees can also stop play to review video personally. This can change a potential call or indeed the result of the game.

Scotland were eliminated from the group round after a VAR review in stoppage time determined that the goalkeeper had stepped off her line early, giving Argentina a second go at a penalty kick.

In Germany vs Nigeria on Saturday, Alexandra Popp's header was allowed after a VAR review looked at a potential offside, and Germany were awarded a penalty kick after another VAR review.

Collina - 'mistakes were committed'

There are 27 female referees at the Women's World Cup in France, and according to Pierluigi Collina, who is Chairman of FIFA's Refereeing Committee, they all "went through an intensive preparation process to be ready for the FIFA Women's World Cup".

There are also 15 video assistant referees — ten of which also worked the 2018 world cup in Russia.

Collina admitted however that "a few mistakes were committed" with VAR. He said that "it should not have happened, and I regret that".

Many have complained that the VAR review takes too much time during the game and that referees should be able to make calls without reviewing video.

Early on in the group stages, France missed a penalty kick but received a second try after a VAR review showed that the Nigerian goalkeeper came off her line.

The decision was hotly debated on social media but followed the introduction of a new rule for goalkeepers introduced on 1 June stating they had to have at least one foot on the goal line before a penalty kick is taken.

Some took to social media stating that French players encroached the box more than the goalkeeper came off her line.

VAR needs to 'chill'

Professional US footballer Sydney Leroux Dwyer tweeted after the game, "VAR needs to chill".

Another rule change was issued Friday as FIFA eased up on goalkeeper cautions saying that during a penalty "shootout" in which teams take penalty kicks to determine a match's outcome, a goalkeeper would not receive a yellow card if they step off the goal line.


The International Football Association Board said that the surprise change midway through the biggest event in women's football was determined in part because VAR increased the likelihood of a goalkeeper being penalised.

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