Football: does video refereeing respect the spirit of the game?

In 2017, football France discovered VAR, for Video Assistant Referee, video assistant referee in French. Already used by the cousin of rugby, this device is supposed to help referees make fewer errors, and thus less influence the final result of a match.

Concretely, UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, explains that “The stadium’s VAR team intervenes in the event of an obvious error in the following four very specific situations that could change the course of the match: a goal, an incident in the penalty area, a red card or an error in the identity of the players. players “. Since its appearance, however, the VAR has struggled to gain unanimity, praised on the one hand for sporting fairness but accused on the other of going against “the spirit of the game”.

Technology everywhere

Football, and therefore its refereeing, has never been frozen. Realize: at the origin, in the XIXe century, there were even two field referees, each of the two teams providing an official! In a constantly evolving sport, and in the digital and all-technological age, the implementation of VAR is not an anomaly in itself. “Technology is everywhere in football, nods Paul Dietschy, sports historian at the University of Franche-Comté. It is in the impeccable semi-synthetic turf, in the equipment of the players, supposed to improve their performances, until the electronic stopwatch, much more practical for the referees. “

→ READ. Euro 2021: what you need to know about the regulations of the European Football Championship

With the precision that is its own, video assistance leaves no room for interpretation or doubt to decide whether the ball has crossed the goal line or if a player is out of play, and allows for more equity. between the two teams. Proof by example: on March 27, at the last minute of the Portugal-Serbia meeting, in a qualifying match for the 2022 World Cup, Lusitano striker Cristiano Ronaldo saw his goal be refused, while the ball was fine. and well into the opposing goal.

Impossible to verify, however: for logistical reasons, the VAR and the goal line technology, which is used precisely in this case, are not used during the European qualifiers for the World Cup. Bad luck for the Portuguese, who had to content themselves with a draw… If the VAR was debated at that time, it was precisely because it was conspicuous by its absence.

“The spirit of the game”

With VAR, no more happy mistakes that have made the history of this sport, ” hand of God “ from Diego Maradona to that of Thierry Henry against Ireland in 2009. A very understandable development, given all the extra-sporting issues around a discipline which brews more and more money every year.

So, what’s wrong with video assistance? “To interrupt a match for five minutes and ultimately refuse a goal because of an offside little finger, plague Romain, Marseille supporter and football lover. The problem is not the video, it’s the use we make of it, it goes against the spirit of the game. “ From there to saying that you have to allow yourself a few largesse and voluntarily forget to whistle, there is only one step …

“This is the old dilemma of letter and spirit, explains Paul Dietschy. Should we apply the rule to the letter, however hard it may be, even for an offside of a few millimeters, or can we allow ourselves a margin of appreciation? “ More broadly, the question of video assistance is above all that of the human and interpretation part that we want to leave in the game.

The role of the arbitrator

The problem with VAR is also that of the referee’s disempowerment. What is it for, one wonders, if his assistant is blowing him into the headset what to whistle, or if he passes and repeats the same images in a loop before making a decision? These lengths in a match, which cut the pace and make players and supporters lose patience, also contribute in a way to removing magic from the sport. “Symbolically, football has often been a metaphor for life: sometimes we win, sometimes we lose and sometimes it’s thanks to a twist of fate, an injustice for some and luck for others”, abounds Paul Dietschy.

The difficulty is also this gray area, where everyone agrees to use the VAR, estimating “That you have to use it but not for hours” as Romain says. Where is the limit ? How long does it take for the referees to render their decision? These questions have no rational solution… and remain subject to the appreciation of the arbitrator who is, above all, a human being.

For this Euro delayed by one year due to the Covid, the VAR is present to support the referees. Let’s take advantage: “Perhaps in twenty years, artificial intelligence will have entirely replaced the man in black”, laughs Paul Dietschy. And then maybe we’ll look back with nostalgia back to when the whistle was still in the mouth of a flesh-and-blood referee.



Vendée Globe: at the finish, a race always driven by the spirit of adventure

The first sailor to go under the hundred days during the 2000-2001 edition, Michel Desjoyeaux inaugurated a line of records set to fall every four years, from one Vendée Globe to another. From 2000 to 2017, more and more sophisticated boats, helmed by sailors who sometimes hold an engineering degree, such as François Gabart or Armel Le Cléac’h, have gained twenty days. By making landfall in January 2017 after 74 days of racing, Armel Le Cléac’h was already announcing the rest of the story: the Vendée Globe in 70 days for 2020-2021.

Everyone believed in it, some like Armel Tripon even advanced on a possible navigation in 65 days, lightening their boat by taking only 70 days of food. Alas, 79 days after the start, Armel Tripon was still 2,500 km away from a line that the first will cross this Wednesday 27, after 80 days at sea. Beautiful symbol for a race more contested than ever and finishing on time. the adventure imagined by Jules Verne in the 19th centurye century, at a time when it seemed almost impossible.

The paradox is that this “slowness” of machines built to navigate fast is good news, including for the organizer. “It is beneficial for the spirit of adventure. Always faster has found its limits, machines have lost in the face of nature, that is also the beauty of ocean racing ”, comments the race director, Jacques Caraës.

A shipwreck that calms the ardor

What happened so that the nine new boats equipped with foils did not leave the fleet of older monohulls in place? The answer lies in the five letters conditioning this natural sport: the weather. “The descent of the Atlantic, at the start of the race, was slowed down by difficult weather conditions which tired both men and machines”, details the race doctor, Jean-Yves Chauve. Heckled in the Atlantic, the foilers were then taken back in the southern seas by a late southern summer. Which never brought them the long expected regular swell, which would have allowed them to soar over the water and in the standings.

→ READ. Vendée Globe: these foils that can turn against their skippers

“The sinking of Kevin Escoffier, whose boat broke in two before sinking in a few minutes, also calmed the enthusiasm of the first: they had to slow down for safety”, continues Doctor Chauve. This almost direct rescue, which risks playing a decisive role in the final classification through the bonuses granted to the three skippers who came to the rescue of the castaway, will remain the greatest adventure of this Vendée Globe. But there were many others, which for the most part ended well. We can no longer count the dangerous ascents at the masthead, including for the one-handed private navigator Damien Seguin, which allowed the sailor to continue his journey.

More tenacious sailors

This ninth edition is also characterized by a very low number of abandonments in view of the weather conditions. Barring further bad luck, there could be 25 of them making landfall, twice as much as usual. Here too, this astonishing statistic is a matter for men and women. “I think that the desire to stay at sea as long as possible marks the arrival of a new generation”, analyzes the former race boss Denis Horeau, author of a reference book (1).

During the last two editions, many skippers who left for the podium immediately threw in the towel after losing any chance in the standings, when they could have reached Les Sables-d’Olonne at low speed. “The spirit of adventure has taken over. Of course, the champions want to win but I believe that victory is no longer enough for them and we should be happy about it ”, continues Denis Horeau. Evidenced by the reaction of Samantha Davies, disqualified after having made a stopover to repair her damaged boat. And left for the beauty of the gesture and the interests of its humanitarian sponsor, Cardiac Surgery Patronage.


Controversy over the ranking

The arrival was to be played Wednesday evening 27 between the three leading men, Charlie Dalin, Boris Herrmann and Louis Burton. But the final classification will be established after the arrival of three sailors credited with bonuses following their participation in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier, Boris Herrmann (6 hours), Yannick Bestaven (10:15 a.m.) and Jean Le Cam (4:15 p.m. ). Some teams are claiming for their foals at risk of being downgraded the opportunity to share a place on the podium, in a tie. But the organization swept away this initiative, offering litigants to share their… bonuses (€ 200,000 at 1er, 140,000 € to 2e, 100,000 € to 3e, € 80,000 to 4e and € 50,000 at 5e).