Refereeing

Collina: Our goal is to have consistency by VARs

  • Pierluigi Collina recently spoke at WFS Live
  • Panel entitled 'Improving the Game through Technology'
  • VAR and other technology aides for referees discussed in depth

Chairman of FIFA's Referee Committee and former accomplished international referee Pierluigi Collina recently took part in the World Football Summit (WFS) Live online conference to discuss a wide-range of topics centred around technology's role in helping referees and namely the development and use of Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR).

Speaking with ESPN's Gabriele Marcotti, Collina gave valuable insight from the perspective of a referee on one of football's greatest technological developments in recent history.

Gabriele Marcotti: Perhaps unfairly, one mistake from a referee can seriously damage them, can hurt their career, hurt the way they’re perceived in the next match. If they make the same mistake and VAR steps in and says, 'No [inaudible]' or fixes the mistake, people become more accepting of the referee? Is that the idea?

Pierluigi Collina: Nobody cares about the wrong decision taken on the field of play corrected by the VAR. What counts is the final outcome, what counts is the final decision. If the final decision is correct, I would say… I wrongly said nobody because people like me, dealing with the refereeing, we are certainly caring about the wrong decision initially taken by the referee on the field, because we need to improve his quality, we need to put him in a condition to take a correct decision. Basically, this is our activity, this is our job. But in terms of outcome, if the wrong decision is corrected by the VAR, at the end of the day, a correct decision is taken so nobody cares, nobody remembers, while a wrong decision taken in an important match, a key decision taken in the wrong match – we had experiences in the past – can really kill the referee’s career. So, it’s a safety net [that’s] very important for referees.

Pierluigi Collina addresses some questions surrounding refereeing during the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 during a press conference
© Getty Images

Is there a better way to communicate why certain decisions are made so that in the end it’s very clear to people who made a final decision and why, without this confusion?

What I can say is: VAR has been designed to have full control of every possible incident occurring during the match. What is different is the assessment, because it’s not the technology offering the final answer, like with the goal-line technology. It is the human being who is using technology to make the final decision. So basically, at the end there is the human being and as you know, as we all know, human beings are not perfect. Mistakes are part of being human. FIFA has the task to support member associations in their educational programmes with refereeing, including VAR. What we are trying to do is have consistent assessment, to have uniformity, to have consistent decisions taken by video assistant referees, suggesting referees to review or not something on a pitchside monitor.

Goal-line technology versus offside ... do you think people would have been more accepting [of VAR] if it had adopted that same black-and-white visual interpretation of goal-line technology?

Goal-line technology is an easier exercise compared to offside because you have a line, the goal-line between the posts, under the bar: that’s it. So, if you have a few cameras covering different angles, the cameras are standing in that position. Offside is something that can occur everywhere in roughly 55-60 metres of outfield, so it’s much more complicated to have the same kind of approach goal-line technology had. I can tell you that FIFA has a Technology Innovation Department that is studying how technology can be developed, coordinating companies all over the world in trying to find the best technology that can offer answers, not only related to referees’ decisions but, generally speaking, technology and football. It’s something that goes more in the direction of, let’s say, a final answer given by software or something similar. That might help to make the decision more accepted, so we are working [on it]. I go back, VAR is only five-years-old; it’s a young boy who is learning and who will certainly improve.

I wanted to ask you about the use of technology to help referees prepare for matches, to help them study the characteristics of the players, gain an advantage, make their job easier on the pitch. Could you talk a little bit about that and about some of the advancements that people might not know about?

I remember before the [FIFA] World Cup Final in 2002 when I refereed Germany v. Brazil, I had to watch a VHS for 90 minutes, five matches, so it took one and a half days to get all this information. Today, technology can provide it very quickly, simply by clicking on your computer, and you can get dozens of images that can offer you information about how a team plays, how players play and so on. Technology is also being used, particularly during this time of pandemic, to have courses. As I said before, FIFA has an important task, that is, to support member associations in refereeing education. We normally deliver courses all over the world. Today, it’s impossible to do it in person, so we use technology to get referees connected all over the world, or in specific countries, with our instructors. So, certainly, technology plays an important role, not only during a match, but also before the match itself.

You can watch the conversation in full HERE.

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