Successful communication is concise communication. The type of engagement that leaves the recipient in no doubt about the message. In that regard, FIFA has failed with VAR.

So far.

FIFA said it introduced VAR to the World Cup to clear up a ‘clear and obvious’ errors, but as it stands, VAR is posing more questions than it answers.

Of course, there have been successful interventions; a fact which undoubtedly shows the technology’s potential, but VAR has been applied at moments when a decision – and in some cases an important one – has been entirely dependent on human application of the rules rather than undeniable fact.

In which case, why not stick with the opinion of the man who was originally appointed to officiate on the pitch because he was considered the best man for the job?

This week, I read a well-presented piece which assessed the 15 VAR decisions that had been implemented at the time the author wrote his assessment. I have no issue at all with the motivation for the feature, but much of the respected writer’s conclusions were based on one, important thing – his own opinion! VAR is not there to justify opinion, it is there to confirm definitive outcomes.


For example, the only time the match referee should be summoned to the touchline is if the VAR quietly suggests into the ref’s earpiece that he can offer a technologically defined, undeniable verdict to correct one of those ‘clear and obvious’ errors. The words; “I think that was a foul” should not be used to stop the game and undermine the match referee.

The spectacle of a chastened figure being summoned like a naughty schoolboy to a pitch side monitor by some smartarse who thinks the ball striking a hand at pace from two yards away is an undeniable offence, weakens the referee’s position and his onward credibility.

If VAR is allowed to continue highlighting a difference of opinion between two officials, you might as well switch it off.

In simple terms, VAR technology is merely a series of replays of what actually happened. The images cannot be ‘wrong’. When interpretation is involved its the humans who should be scrutinised not the technology.

  • Inside the box or outside? Yes/No
  • Over the line or not? Yes/No
  • Offside or onside? Yes/No

But handball? VAR says yes, Alan Shearer says no and the poor referee doesn’t know whether its World Cup Wednesday or Easter Sunday because some bloke in a box has just over-ruled him in front of the global billions.

So here’s the point.

VAR technology is fine and has the potential to improve the game.  The problem lies with the people who made up the rules for its use in the first place.

Phil Mepham

is a Partner at Lyndcroft Media

Dealing directly with FIFA and its most senior administrators, operating amidst the media frenzy of Premier League football and presenting live television are all experiences which illustrate Phil’s ability to identify communications opportunities and recognise potential issues, traps and consequences.

Phil provides executive counsel and practical guidance on areas such personal profiling and crisis management to both individuals and commercial organisations and also works with consumer brands to produce product and service campaigns on both B2B and B2.