The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has had its fair share of controversies and blunders when it comes to the implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology. While the Premier League also faced a VAR blunder recently, the NWSL’s challenges with the technology are ongoing and have had major implications on the league’s playoff race.
One of the biggest issues with VAR in the NWSL is the lack of sufficient technology to aid referees in making the right decisions. Unlike other leagues that have access to two-dimensional lines and semi-automated offside technology, NWSL referees are often left to make crucial offside calls without definitive angles. This lack of technology hampers their ability to make accurate decisions and often leads to controversies.
In a recent match between Racing Louisville and the Chicago Red Stars, a penalty decision was overturned after a lengthy VAR review. The decision was shocking because there appeared to be no evidence to support the determination of a clear and obvious error. The lack of sufficient video evidence made it difficult for the referee to overturn the initial call, which looked to be a penalty. This incident highlights the challenges faced by NWSL referees due to the limited technology available.
Another incident involved a goal review where a referee asked for a different angle to determine if a player had interfered with an opponent. However, no other angle was shown, and the goal was eventually awarded. This again showcases the limitations of the technology available and the need for better camera angles and equipment.
While VAR is meant to be a solution to improve officiating, it has become a complicating factor in the NWSL. The league has made some improvements, such as upgrading cameras and fiber transmission, but it still falls short of the technological standards set by other leagues. Premier League games, for example, are captured by at least 30 cameras, while NWSL games typically have six or 14 cameras, depending on the broadcast.
The issues with VAR in the NWSL can be partly attributed to the league’s inadequate media rights deal. The league relies on the owner/operators of each franchise and sponsorship money to produce games, unlike other leagues where media rights deals cover the costs. The NWSL is currently in search of a new media rights deal, which could potentially provide the funds needed to invest in better technology and improve the VAR system.
VAR has been a step towards greater accountability in the NWSL, but it requires continued training and investment in technology to truly improve the process. The league’s next media rights deal will play a crucial role in determining the future of VAR and the overall broadcast quality of NWSL games. As the league aims to become big-time, it needs to prioritize technological advancements to ensure accurate and fair officiating.