Former Referee Collina Reflects On VAR at World Football Summit

VAR can really save a referee’s career, said Pierluigi Collina in a conversation with football journalist Gabriele Marcotti during a panel at the World Football Summit. The yearly international event is taking place in a virtual form this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The Italian referee, who directed the World Cup 2002 Final between Brazil and Germany and has been one of the most representative of the refereeing category in the past decades, fully backed up the introduction of the video assistant technology and discussed how its future evolution may add even greater benefit to the game of football.

Referees are human and humans make mistakes, Collina said. But, at the end of the day, nobody remembers and cares anymore about a “wrong decision” when such a decision is corrected straight away with the help of the technology. Prior to the VAR, making a wrong call during a major event could really kill a referee’s career, on top of its obvious detrimental impact on the competition outcome.

In order to take full advantage of technology, however, referees must go through a change in mindset and adapt their mentality, added Collina. This current generation of referees are still “non-native” users of VAR, the Italian referee said, noting how part of a referee’s education has historically been about defending their decisions to the hilt. Now, referees must accept that their decision can be overturned.

After all, the VAR has been in place for less than five years and has already made some major strides towards adding more balance and transparency to refereeing calls. When the International Football Association Board discussed the potential introduction of a technology-assistance protocol, they focused on the idea of monitoring and recording every single incident happening in a football game.

There might still be some wrong calls – as the VAR is a mean and not a decision taker. Decisions will always be ultimately taken by humans. But, concluded Collina, as technology continues to evolve and more specialized figures – like dedicated video match officials specifically trained to review game footage – emerge, the VAR will continue to make referee lives easier and improve transparency and balance in the beautiful game.