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Interaction: Men’s World Cup video screens

Kügenliche: Good evening everyone, and welcome to Interaction for this week. We are again here in our Men’s World Cup headquarters in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, where four matches of the tournament have been played so far. Well, we have seen plenty of exciting action so far, and some heartbreaking defeats, not least by my own nation, whose title defence was ended at the hands of Korea Republic earlier this week. So, I have taken a break from my vociferous demands for the sacking of Joachim Löw, and I have bravely come in to our studio to face the world today. And our subject today is the use of VAR, video assistant referee, at this Men’s World Cup. It has been in use at every match, and it has led to twenty reviews, sixteen of which resulted in a change to the referee’s original decision. Has the use of VAR been successful? Does it, as Morocco’s Younès Belhanda suggested, favour only popular teams? Or is it a random, haphazard puddle of constant confusion for players, managers, and spectators? To answer these questions, we have brought a panel here to Nizhny Novgorod. First, an instructor at a women’s referee training programme in Helsinki, Finland, Ms Augusta Tiinaavseen.

Tiinaavseen: Hello.

Kügenliche: A retired player and now commentator for the South Asia Football Channel, Mr Dhalvish Jaana.

Jaana: Good evening.

Kügenliche: The director of the Canadian Alliance for Soccer Knowledge, Mr Mike O’Halloran.

O’Halloran: Hello.

Kügenliche: And a writer based in Swansea, Wales, UK, whose latest book, Neither Blind Nor Deaf: The Hard Work and Sacrifices of Football Referees and Why You Don’t Give Them Enough Respect, is due to be released next month, Ms Sian Cattellay.

Cattellay: Good evening.

Kügenliche: Welcome all of you. Thank you all for joining us today. We go to you first, Augusta. You are an instructor to football referees. How would you rate the referees that you have seen at this tournament so far?

Tiinaavseen: Well, many of the referees have done a very good job. On the whole, I think the use of VAR has been quite successful. I do, however, hope to see them take a more firm stance against simulation and dissent. These are behaviours that plague the modern game. Referees have regularly been instructed to punish these offenses with yellow cards, yet they continue to permit these behaviours. Giving more bookings for simulation and dissent would greatly improve the experience for players and fans.

Kügenliche: Well, noble sentiments there. Dhalvish, what are your impressions of the tournament, and in particular the use of VAR, to date?

Jaana: Well, there were a few occasions when VAR was not used but should have been. For example, the match between Serbia and Switzerland, when a Serbian player was fouled in the area by two Swiss players at the same time.

Kügenliche: Aleksandar Mitrović.

Jaana: Yes. This should at a minimum have gone to review. The VAR should at least instruct the referee that it is a potential penalty. These are the sorts of errors that VAR was intended to correct, and yet it is going unused.

Kügenliche: Well, going over to you now, Mike, as a viewer, do you feel that VAR is being used appropriately?

O’Halloran: Well, I agree with you, Dhalvish, that the Mitrović play should have been reviewed. But most of the plays that should have been reviewed have been reviewed. For example, the match between Brazil and Costa Rica. Neymar went down in the area, but the referee looked at the replays and ruled that he had not been fouled. So in the majority of cases, it is being used correctly.

Kügenliche: Sian, VAR has not been in use for long. Several national leagues have used it over the last year, and it has been used at a few FIFA tournaments such as the Confederations Cup last year. Will it change the way referees make rulings on the pitch, and indeed, has it done so already?

Cattellay: I don’t think so. Referees are still making their judgments based on the information available to them: what they see from their own vantage point in real time. But they now have the opportunity to revise their judgments based on evidence from other vantage points. This is surely a benefit to the game we all know and love.

Kügenliche: Well, at the moment, I am having difficulty loving this game, seeing as how Germany are no longer participating in the tournament. And I suspect that Mexican and Korean restaurants in Germany will be observing a downturn in business in the weeks to come. But in any case, there will be a new champion crowned in a matter of weeks, so let us all look forward to that. We go now to you, the viewers, for questions to our panel. There are many ways that you may reach us, and you can see the numbers, account names, and addresses there on your screen. And for our first question, we go to the telephone lines and Paul in Kazan, Russia. Paul, are you there?

Paul in Kazan: Yes, hello.

Kügenliche: Hello Paul. Welcome to the programme. What is your question?

Paul in Kazan: Well, I played in the match earlier today, and I had hoped to relax and celebrate by watching your programme. But your programme is airing at the same time as the match between Uruguay and Portugal. Since your programme is also talking about the World Cup, I think perhaps you should have scheduled your programme at a different time so that those of us who want to celebrate our victory, watch your programme, and scout our upcoming opponent by watching their match would be able to – oooh! What a beautiful goal!

Kügenliche: Right. Thank you for that question, Paul. Dhalvish, was that a beautiful goal?

Jaana: I do not know. I could not see it.

Tiinaavseen: [staring at telephone] Hold on. Just a minute.

Kügenliche: Sian, would you say that was a beautiful goal?

Cattellay: [staring at telephone] I’m trying to check it.

Kügenliche: All right. Well, we currently have a check in progress on that last question. We will momentarily determine whether to –

Tiinaavseen: Got it. [draws rectangle with hands]

[The others crowd around Tiinaavseen’s telephone.]

O’Halloran: Oh, look at that!

Cattellay: Perfectly placed. No chance for the keeper.

Tiinaavseen: Yes! Look at the spin!

O’Halloran: Who was that?

Cattellay: Cavani.

Jaana: Cavani.

Tiinaavseen: Yes, confirmed. [draws rectangle with hands, then points at telephone] Beautiful goal indeed.

Kügenliche: Well, thank you. Good use of the video assistant mobile there. Our next question is from Massimiliano in Moscow, Russia. Massimiliano, are you there?

Massimiliano in Moscow: Yes, I am here.

Kügenliche: Hello Massimiliano. What is your question?

Massimiliano in Moscow: Yes, I would advise you to revisit your decision to air your programme at the same time as a World Cup match. Particularly if the topic of your programme is the very same World Cup. This appears to be a clear and obvious error.

Kügenliche: Well, thank you for that, Massimiliano. Mike, your opinion? Clear and obvious?

O’Halloran: Yes, absolutely. What are we doing here? Let’s go and watch the rest of that match.

Cattellay: I agree. Clear and obvious.

Tiinaavseen: Yes, absolutely. [draws rectangle with hands, then points offscreen] That looks like an inviting pub over there.

Kügenliche: Right, well, that’s that then. Join us again next week when we discuss something else relating to the Men’s World Cup. How the spectators are behaving, or something. Good night.

[Exit all.]

Cattellay: Isn’t next week’s show during a quarterfinal match?

Tiinaavseen: Seriously, why do you keep doing this to yourselves?