Legendary referee Pierluigi Collina thinks fans should be thinking about the future with VAR – and says that it actually brings more excitement to the game.
The system has sparked controversy wherever it has gone in the world of football so far, a trend which has continued with its introduction into the Premier League this season.
Among fans’ complaints have been its effect on the reaction to scoring a goal, with several divisive calls made on disallowed goals this season.
Fractional offside calls, for example, have led to a debate over whether the cameras used for VAR checks are fit for purpose due to frame-rate issues, but Collina says the technology is improving all the time.
“Even if it feels like VAR has been around forever, it was only thought up five years ago,” he said at the Trento Festival of Sport. “In principle, it was meant to be a simple visual aid for the referee.
“One of the biggest problems was in reliability, but the reaction time of the technology has advanced light years. What takes one minute today took five minutes in 2014 during our first tests.
“We are working constantly and the technology we’ll have in five years could be totally different to the one we see now.”
The time taken to make decisions has also been an issue for many fans. Though delays have generally seemed to drop since the 2018 World Cup, where the VAR system came in for extreme criticism, close decisions are still leading to lulls of several minutes in games.
“Of course, nobody likes to wait,” Collina admitted. “But a big step forward would be if we create a programme using artificial intelligence to immediately select at most 20 different camera angles.
“I don’t think VAR kills the excitement of a goal celebration, if anything it increases the level of excitement. You get to celebrate twice, when scoring and when it’s confirmed.”
As a six-time winner of the IFFHS World’s Best Referee award, Collina is now FIFA’s chief refereeing commissioner.
Collina was also seven times named the Referee of the Year in the Italian Serie A, and in 2011 was inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame.