Clasico the last VAR straw

The Clasico is known around the globe for great players, great goals and also great controversy. Whether it’s the brawls, full-hearted tackles, diving antics or even Jose Mourinho’s eye-gouging, there are tough encounters on and off the field – and a need for equally-tough referees to manage these volatile situations.

Sadly, there wasn’t one to be found at Camp Nou on Sunday as Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernández let the match get out of hand, with no less than eight yellow cards being dished out, as well as one red and plenty of scuffles.

The players didn’t help, but the fact remains that the Canarian lost control. Yet what was more egregious were the errors he and his assistants made, which influenced the course of the match.

The biggest mistake lay with Barcelona’s second goal against Real Madrid, when Hernandez Hernandez allowed Luis Suarez to repeatedly kick Raphael Varane in his attempts to win possession. If that wasn’t bad enough, he failed to spot the blatant trip on Marcelo by Jordi Alba in the box.

Even worse was Gareth Bale’s studs-up challenge on Samuel Umtiti right in front of the linesman going unpunished and Luis Suarez’ goal being wrongly ruled out for a non-existent offside on Ivan Rakitic. With such poor decisions in world football’s biggest derby, video assistant referees (VAR) surely can’t come soon enough.

In a League where millions ride on millimetres, there’s an incentive to get things right. The system, which will be used at this summer’s World Cup is due to be implemented in La Liga next season. For a League that still unashamedly turns its nose up at goal-line technology, it’s a big step forward. 

A staple in the German, Italian and Portuguese top flights, its efficacy depends on whom you speak to and in which country. For many in England, its sporadic use in the historic and coveted FA Cup has been haphazard at best.

Things have been a bit smoother in Germany and Italy, even if some will still find fault in that statement, but Spain’s late implementation gives them an advantage; a chance to learn from the mistakes of others and eliminate the lengthy delays and confusion for fans and players alike. 

It now seems primitive for a top European League to be without goal-line technology, yet La Liga chief Javier Tebas has so far been unwilling to cough up the €4m necessary to implement a FIFA-approved system.

Instead, he wants to kill two birds with one stone, hoping VAR can also solve goal-line disputes; that it can be the silver bullet to avoiding controversies like those witnessed on Sunday. 

There are numerous examples of VAR being wrongly interpreted on reflection, but La Liga referees have gained notoriety for their poor officiating and Hernandez Hernandez’s performance in Catalonia did little to dispel that.

Spain shouldn’t be left any further behind in the football technological revolution, and VAR is a step in the right direction. But until flaws are addressed and the standard of officiating improves, it’s just a step and little more than that.

La Liga - Club News