Starting next season, the Bundesliga is planning to use video assistant referees for all of its games. The head of the project, Hellmut Krug, told DW that the system should reduce the number of bad calls.
DW: Will there be fewer wrong decisions by referees next season?
Hellmut Krug: We certainly hope so. We will be able to correct decisions that we are able to determine were clearly wrong. This would be a great success.
What sort of clearly wrong decisions?
For example the handball by Thierry Henry , which decided which team qualified for the (2010) World Cup. This (the use of video replays) can clear up situations that lead to a lot of debate, even though there is no doubt that the decision was wrong. This is what we want to eliminate.
There are only four situations (irregularities in the awarding a goal, penalty decisions, potential red card offenses and cases of mistaken identity) in which the video assistants are to be used…
It will be used to determine whether a goal should or should not count, whether a foul preceded it, if it was offside, or if the ball had previously been in or out of touch. Also, situations in the penalty area: Was the referee right to call a penalty - or not to give a penalty. Then there are red cards; fouls committed behind the referees back that warrant a sending off. Or when the last defender deliberately brings down an attacker with the ball or unnecessarily rough play. The final category is in cases when the referee doesn't know which player he needs to punish, or when he has punished the wrong player.
Will the video assistants have the power to overrule the referee on the pitch?
No. The video assistant is just that, an assistant to the referee. You could say he is the third assistant referee. His job is to assist the referee, just as the other two assist him from the sidelines. In each case the assistant referee can only intervene in specific situations.
Period of adjustment
How do you think football fans will find the new system?
We don't know what the reaction of the spectators will be. At the end of the day, it will depend on whether the decisions that are made are the right ones. There is bound to be a period of adjustment. I think we will just have to wait and see what people's reactions will be.
It hasn't yet been decided how spectators, players or the media will be informed that a play is under video review. The reaction could be strong, particularly after a late call…
Of course. Let's say for example that Team A are denied a penalty, that the referee should have given. Then Team B scores at the other end - but Team B's goal is nullified because Team A should have been given a penalty. If something like this happens, things will certainly be dicey, but we shouldn't be overly concerned about this scenario.
Many fans are concerned that the use of video assistants will lead to more stoppages in matches. What have you learned about this during the offline testing phase.
This won't lead to matches taking significantly longer to complete, [there are likely to be] nine, 10 or more minutes of stoppage time. In most cases it will come into play when the ball is out of bounds in the first place, so that play has already been stopped. Our experience at the replay center in Cologne, where we have analyzed four games every weekend, has shown that there are six to eight situations per game that would require communication between the referee and the video assistants. On each matchday there have been one or two situations in which the referee's call on the field would have been overturned.
How will the use of video assistants change the game? Will the game become fairer?
I don't think it will change football in the way that many people fear. Of course it will become fairer. When it [the video system] succeeds in reversing clearly wrong refereeing decisions, the game will automatically become fairer. It will also take some of the pressure off the referees and the referee's assistants on the sidelines, because they will know that there is somebody in the background who, if needed, can help them avoid making what was clearly a wrong call.
If you can go back to the video to check any play, how does this affect the human element? In other words, what, if any, are the drawbacks?
Referees will need to learn how to observe video stills as well as slow-motion replays properly. If I were to put too much of an emphasis on these, particularly in the case of deciding personal punishment of a player, without looking at the play at normal speed, I could run the risk of being too quick to issue a red card, and the resulting punishment might not fit the crime.
Hellmut Krug was a Bundesliga referee from 1984 until 2003 and refereed internationally from 1993. He joined the German FA's (DFB) referee-training program in 2003, rising to head of the program before leaving it in 2007. Currently he is the head of the DFB and German Football League's (DFL) video-assistant project.
The interview was conducted by Olivia Gerstenberger