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VAR in Futsal – Unlikely or Expected Future?

Since its introduction in football a few years ago, Video Assistant Referee, or simply VAR, has been at the centre of the heated discussions of sports fans across the globe. Well, football fans at least. Many are satisfied with this reform of the game because they believe it already reduced the number of mistakes officiated by the referee, while many are upset because they believe it transforms the traditional game arguing that it extends the duration of the match, as well as the process itself not being transparent enough. Both sides agree, though, that this is not the final form of VAR.

We are not that much interested in how VAR affects the football world. However, we are more interested in the discussion - Should VAR be implemented in the beautiful game of futsal? As far as we could research it on the internet – except for one or two sporadic tweets – no one is talking about VAR in futsal. It is very much obvious that VAR is still a new technology and that we have not seen its final shape or form. Despite its usage becoming more and more present, VAR still needs to make its roots in football before being able to “transfer” to another sport such as futsal.

So, in order to facilitate a discussion about introducing VAR in futsal, let us take a look at the pros and cons of such a scenario. Every change is hard in its beginning, especially to the more traditional fans of the sport. But many will argue how we should use the advancement in technology to reform our sports in the same way how technology changed our daily lives and in order to keep our favorite sport from losing popularity to new, emerging sports and audiences. In fact, can we state for a fact that founders of football or futsal would be against this kind of technology in the game if they had it back in the day?

Pros:

  • In comparison to football, futsal already has a much better base for implementation of VAR. The sport is already familiar with the mechanic of stopping the clock every time the ball goes out of play or when there is some kind of interruption. This is completely opposite of the non-stopping clock in a football match where VAR pauses can arguably cause unusually long delays and disrupt one or both teams match rhythm. Although long delays could potentially have the same disrupting factor in futsal, players are already accustomed to time-outs which don’t exist in football and the premise is that this wouldn’t be as disruptive as in football. As for the clock management – consequences would be minimal to non-existent.

 

  • Now the obvious part. VAR could eliminate a lot of crucial mistakes done by the referee – be it the goals, or the fouls, or the two-minute suspensions. It is not my intent to bad-mouth the referees in our sport, but futsal is a very dynamic and attractive sport that is extremely fast-moving and the referee has to be fully concentrated for the duration of the game because match could potentially be turned upside down in a matter of seconds. VAR could assist greatly in this matter to eliminate those crucial mistakes that can change the momentum in the match. This would also bring down the number of controversies after the match so fans and players alike can concentrate on the match itself instead of blaming it all on the referees.

 

  • VAR could also help in a way that it could facilitate the professional development of referees in our sport. The rise in overall player’s quality around the world should be followed by equally good referees in order for the sport to be recognized by the fans everywhere. Professional education for referees that could follow VAR implementation is potentially very beneficial for futsal as a sport.

 

After listing a number of pros for VAR introduction, let’s take a look on the negative side. What could be the negative implications of VAR in futsal?

Cons:

  • Unfortunately, the first thing that comes to mind is –  Or to be more precise, the lack of money. VAR is still a very expensive technology, at least in its current form, and for national futsal/football associations to introduce it in their domestic futsal leagues would represent a huge part of their budget and such undertaking is still out of reach for almost everyone. If we look at VAR in football, we can see that the referee team on the pitch got ‘reinforced’ with new members in the VAR room. Also, every team in the league should invest in technology that would make VAR possible, such as new high-definition cameras for VAR technology to actually be able to work. Unfortunately, in this regard, VAR is still very far from futsal.

 

  • VAR still has to improve on its subjective decisions. We have seen numerous times in football that VAR team would decide not to act and/or change their decision even though replay clearly shows they should. This inconsistency in rule application still has a long way to go and it has been a crucial argument for VAR opposition for some time now. Current negative examples from football do not give us any assurances that things would be better in futsal. Transparency of the whole process is another issue. In some sports that use some kind of video assistance, fans on the stadium or in front of their TVs are given an audio transcript of the decision made. In football, whole communication between the head referee and his team in VAR room still remains a secret.

 

  • Like we mentioned in the pros section – less controversy. While it is generally positive for fans, players and staff to be concentrated on the beauty of the game itself, it is the controversy that fuels the talk and keeps the fans engaged. Some controversies can spur rivalries that can become a huge fan-magnet for the following years. As many fans have noted – controversy is not necessarily bad for the game.

 

After discussing the pros and cons of VAR in futsal, it is time to discuss one more very important thing. Usage of VAR – when would VAR be applicable in futsal? Again, if we take a look at VAR usage in football it is very clear that VAR is used in four scenarios, to decide if: 1) there was a goal/no goal, 2) there was a penalty/no penalty, 3) player made a direct red card and 4) there was a mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card to a player. These rules of application are universal, and they would be very much applicable in futsal as well.

However, being a different sport, futsal has a few unique situations that could also be explored by VAR. For example – fouling. Committing the sixth foul in the half, and every foul afterwards, will give your opponent a penalty kick. Wouldn’t it be prudent for VAR to necessarily check the sixth foul? Since futsal is already familiar with the mechanic of stopping the clock, could it be possible for a coach to challenge the call on the pitch? The invalid challenge could result in forfeiture of time-out in half which will bring a new risk factor for the team and their coaching staff.

To conclude, VAR in futsal is an intriguing idea that will very much depend on its success in football for starters. However, even if it becomes globally applicable, its implementation in futsal could be some time away due to the lack of funds our sport is generally faced with.

What do you think about all this? Is there anything you would like to add to the pros and cons of VAR in futsal or when it should be used? Let us know in the comment section!

 

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