The Women’s World Cup 2019 is underway and FIFA’s new instant replay rules has both fans and players frustrated.
Unlike previous iterations of FIFA’s Women’s World Cup, 2019 added a video assistant referee, or VAR, to the games. VAR technology is meant to assist the referees’ calling, and it made its debut at the Men’s World Cup in Russia, back in 2018.
VAR works by letting officials consult video monitors to come to a better decision after the whistle is blown. According to FIFA, VAR can only be used in the decision-making process in four situations: goals, penalty decisions, red cards, and mistaken identity.
Video replay of on-field events isn’t new or unreasonable, but the addition of VAR has become controversial in light of recent rule changes, mainly when it comes to penalty shootouts. This, among other updates, have become unpopular with many players.
Take for example, the Indomitable Lionesses, also known as Cameroon’s women’s national team. Following a Cameroon yellow card after only three minutes into the game, a potential England offside call that was waived off, and a VAR-assisted offside call that subtracted a goal from Cameroon’s score, the African players refused to continue the match. The team eventually continued play and went on to lose, three goals to zero.
Cameroon’s Lionesses aren’t the only team griping with VAR. Nigerian’s women’s team, and specifically their goalie, Chiamaka Nnadozie, paid the price due to a VAR review as well. In a game against France, Nnadozie faced off against France’s Wendie Renard in a penalty kick. Even though the shot missed, VAR caught Nnadozie with her foot a few inches off the line when it should have been touching it. Her punishment? Renard was allowed to retake their penalty kick.
On the second try, it went in. Thomas Dennerby, coach of Nigeria women’s team, offered his thoughts on VAR at a press conference following the match. “If I give you my honest feelings, they’ll probably send me home,” Dennerby said.
Fans are unhappy as well. Across Twitter, many are unhappy with seeing their team flail, trying to stay one step ahead of the new video replay.
The Women’s World Cup aside, other tournaments are grappling with the new tech as well. Copa America, another multi-national soccer tournament, is using VAR tech to help complete referee calls. As expected, the tech has caused troubles here too in games like the recent Japan versus Uruguay match.
Notably, Europe’s Premier League’s use of promised VAR will be less disruptive. “Premier League referees have been ordered to set a particularly ‘high bar’ for deciding when they need to use the pitch-side review area,” a Yahoo News report said.
Some of that frustration can be felt right here in the U.S. by U.S. women’s players—even ones not on the field. Hope Solo expressed frustration with the new VAR system on the BBC’s Football Daily podcast. “I don’t think these rules should have been implemented on the biggest stage in women’s football,” Solo said in episode. “We have to have a lot of discussions that don’t have to do with football, and we’ve spent a lot of time and energy discussing the rules of the game.
“The amount of time [referees] are taking to make decisions means, unfortunately, the women’s game, once again, is a guinea pig.” Emma Hayes, manager of the Premier League’s Chelsea FC Women, replied to Solo. “This tournament is being ruined by the unclear VAR process.”