HNS Reveals How VAR will Operate in Croatian Football League

Daniela Rogulj

HNS and the Croatian football refereesare intensely preparing for the introduction of the VAR (video assistant referee) system.

Under the watchful eye of IFAB, an independent regulatory body that determines the Laws of the Game of association football, selected judges are undergoing complex training so that, in about a year, they are ready to use VAR in the Croatian football league. The Croatian Football Federation organized a media demonstration of the system, which is introduced in this part of Europe first, reports on May 14, 2019. 

“VAR technology is the most important and fastest revolution in modern football. It was used for the first time in 2016 and has been used in the most important games of the 2018  World Cup. Our vision for VAR technology and video aids is as little interference in the game as possible,” said IFAB Technical Director and former English football referee David Elleray at the presentation of VAR technology in Sesvete.

All involved in this project agree; the introduction of VAR technology is the most demanding project of HNS. Disagreements with referees, which have hovered over the Federation for years, generated many affairs that would have been minimized by introducing VAR.

“Twelve referees are now preparing for their VAR license and 13 AVAR licenses. That will be enough in the first season, and when these referees get their license we will train the younger referees from the talent program for VAR,” said Ante Kulušić, president of the HNL Referee Commission.

The VAR room will include only the VAR Chief Referee, AVAR or Assistant Referee, and VAR Technician. The rules about using VAR are very detailed and strict.

“VAR serves solely as an aid and as a second chance. Thus, VAR will not judge, and the stories that VAR judges for referees and make decisions is not correct. VAR is only an aid that corrects bad and obvious errors, and only four instances are allowed to be viewed in the recording. Things like whether a goal was scored from the offside position, whether there was a handball and the like, whether there should be a penalty or one was unfairly given, and if a direct red card was given – and I note direct, not a second yellow. So these are four things that can only be viewed through VAR technology. Everything else is not allowed,” said Bruno Marić, a former referee who led the instruction.

The mode of communication between the judges in the room and those in the field is also prescribed. Improvisation does not exist because they know exactly who is talking and what phrases are being used.

Croatia’s most experienced judge, Ivan Bebek, has already been introduced to VAR technology

“I had the chance to go to Saudi Arabia where I had the opportunity to referee at the invitation of their Football Federation, and I can tell you that I was more tired and sweat more in the VAR room than I do on the field. It is a ferocious responsibility. On the field, people can understand the referee’s mistake if you’re slightly wrong or far away, and in the VAR room when you have all the benefits of repetitive footage, you simply should not make mistakes,” Ivan Bebek said.

However, mistakes are not entirely excluded, because VAR referees need to find the right angle of view, if available. Bruno Marić has been in many controversial situations during his career and said he would be happy if VAR existed then.

“Because of the two, three situations that have created a lot of problems in my life, VAR technology would certainly help me, or at least somebody would believe that my decisions were more accurate because sometimes using VAR technology comes to the credibility of decisions that are made in the field. If I could turn back time with some of my decisions, I would certainly have used VAR technology,” says Bruno Marić.

Some referees have already asked to work exclusively in the field and outside the VAR room, and it will probably take time for teams to feel comfortable in the VAR room. Assistant referee Sanja Rođak Karšić, who will soon ref at the women’s World Cup, will be exclusively on the ground.

“I will not take on the role of AVAR because I would still like to focus on just refereeing; it is quite complicated and complex,” said Sanja Rođak Karšić.

If everything goes according to plan, VAR will be used in the HNL from the spring of 2020. 

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