Every major soccer league on the planet is now using VAR, the video assistant referee. Now that they’ve all rolled it out, one thing has become clear: It’s not working. Making correct decisions is a worthy goal, but even the best technology can’t overcome human nature, the weak link in the whole process.
As in every other sport with instant replay, referees cannot resist the impulse to re-referee the game — in slow motion, which distorts reality. With most subjective decisions no less subjective at slower speeds, referees spend dreary minutes re-reviewing 50-50 calls. It’s human nature to want to be right. But it’s slowing down the game and not noticeably improving the number of correct calls.
Technology helps with decisions that are mostly black-and-white, such as whether a potential goal has crossed the line. And with offsides calls, though the technology for that still leaves something to be desired. For the rest, VAR would be better off only overturning egregiously wrong calls — reviewed at regular speed, not in slow motion — and judging off-the-ball incidents the referee missed. In every league the current setup just makes the game slower, more baffling and less joyful.
• The semiprofessional NPSL canceled its 2020 season this week, leaving local club Minneapolis City SC without a league. The club vowed to play games this summer, if it could be done safely, including games in the U.S. Open Cup. With MLS and USL having to scramble to play their own league seasons this year, it’s possible those pro teams pull out of the U.S. Open Cup, leaving the field wide open for teams like the Crows.
• New U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone is saying all the right things when it comes to the federation’s dealings with the lawsuit by the current national-team players. Parlow Cone, a former national team player, has two Olympic gold medals, a World Cup title and 75 goals to her name. She keeps apologizing for the federation’s past actions and vows to find a resolution. Simply paying the players equally, regardless of gender, is the fastest and easiest way to resolve the dispute. Parlow Cone seems like she gets that better than anyone else.
ONE MORE THING
• It’s hard to believe, but all of world soccer has not yet ground to a halt. The Belarusian Premier League kicked off its season last week, with fans in the stands like usual, amid the country’s president calling the pandemic a “psychosis.” For now, four other leagues — Burundi, Myanmar, Nicaragua and Turkmenistan — are playing on as well.
Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: email@example.com