The use of video assistant referees (VAR) has been one of the major talking points in football over the past few years.
Each season brings new concerns and issues that officials must attempt to navigate. The latest VAR-based controversy in football has come in the Women’s Nations League, a tournament where the system is not used in all games.
England Women found themselves feeling extremely hard done by following a defeat to the Netherlands on Tuesday night as a goal that would have been chalked off with extra measures was allowed to stand.
Here’s an explanation of the incident and why this game took place without VAR in the first place.
England were in Nations League action against the Netherlands, Sarina Wiegman’s old team and her home nation, on Tuesday night. Lieke Martens gave the hosts the lead before Arsenal striker Alessia Russo equalised, but Renate Jansen’s late winner gave the Dutch all three points.
However, it was the first goal of the night that caused all the controversy.
The ball cannoned off a Dutch player and straight to the offside Danielle van de Donk. She then laid the ball to Martens who curled it excellently into the top corner. If VAR had been in place, the goal would have been chalked off.
England’s Millie Bright was incensed by the lack of a VAR at the Stadion Galgenwaard in Utrecht, saying: “There is no consistency. It is always frustrating [to not have VAR]. I think we push the level of the game to be so high and professional, yet we sometimes have VAR, sometimes don’t, sometimes have goalline technology…
“By no means is that an excuse. We put ourselves in that position – not clearing the ball, not getting out of pressure. But yeah, they are the differences in games as well and it is really unfortunate that these are still huge decisions that are incorrect.
“That’s where we as players have to keep speaking about it, we have to step up, we have to demand better and demand more. This is international football and we do not have VAR in a competitive international game, which is mind-blowing.”
The simple reasoning behind the lack of VAR at this match is there is no rule stating Women’s Nations League matches must use VAR until the semi-final stage of the tournament. This is because not all stadiums being used in the tournament have the infrastructure in place.
For example, England’s win against Scotland days earlier was at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light which, as a Championship-level stadium, does not use VAR.
The Stadion Galgenwaard does have the infrastructure for VAR as it has been used in the Eredivisie since the 2018/19 season. As to why it was not used for this game, that is yet to be explained.
England boss Wiegman had her say after the match: “I think the whole stadium thought it was offside. When you talk about VAR, of course it would have taken away that goal. I think we need consistency in VAR. Either you have VAR or you don’t have VAR.”