In a likely win for purists and traditionalists, indications are that much-maligned VAR may be gone for the entirety of the A-League season
Dumped by FFA for the recent regular season restart, it was anticipated the divisive technology would be re-activated for the five-match finals series, commencing on August 22.
However, A-League sources have confirmed that the Video Assistant Referee faces being unplugged until next season, sparing players and fans interminable delays whilst hairline calls are forensically examined, only to often still deliver baffling conclusions.
It’s understood A-League referees - who have grown used to leaning on the system as a crutch or being usurped by its indiscriminate use - have already been briefed on the likelihood of a VAR-free end to the COVID-19 interrupted campaign.
A-League chief Greg O’Rourke declined to comment when contacted by The World Game on whether a definitive decision had been made.
However, it’s believed that misgivings at HQ over hastily reinstalling a technology which has sparked so much negativity and debate, simply for the sake of five games, could be counterproductive.
With cash also at a premium throughout the competition, there is also the matter of cost, with VAR understood to sap far in excess of $100,000 from the coffers each season.
Whilst O’Rourke was keeping his own counsel, Adelaide United football director Bruce Djite and Sydney FC chief executive Danny Townsend were more forthcoming, Djite in favour of moth-balling VAR and Townsend wanting it switched back on pronto.
“I think the way it was being utilised we’re better off without it until they fine-tune it,” said Djite.
“Okay, it’s never going to be perfect but it needs to better than how it was.
“Especially when you consider the cost of the thing - that has to be a factor as well.
“It’s caused so much debate - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing - but until you iron out the inconsistencies why not leave things as they are?”
Townsend takes the opposite view, insisting VAR has more upside than down, despite the vitriol it has provoked globally over long lapses in play, microscopic offside decisions and mystifying handball calls.
“I’m a fan of keeping it - we started the season with it and we should finish the season with it,” he said.
“My understanding is the FFA will make a decision regarding the finals series at a later date.
“I’d hate to see a grand final decided on a refereeing error when you have a technology that can help you out.
“That’s my opinion, others hate it and can’t wait to see the back of it. Football is a game opinions.
“For me, it gets a lot more right than it gets wrong.”
To back his argument Townsend pointed to the displeasure shown by Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay, as two contentious refereeing interventions cost his team in their 3-1 loss to the Sky Blues.
Talay claimed having VAR in play would have potentially reversed those calls, with Townsend adding: “Ufuk thought his team were robbed by those decisions and with VAR they’d have won the game.
“You can’t win sometimes. People say it’s intrusive and I get that ... we all want games to flow.
“But on the flip side, you also want to see the right decisions being made, and technology can help with that.”