Rather than learning the VAR rules or accepting some blame, teams like Real Madrid are struggling to accept the reality of a level playing field in La Liga

The Spanish Referee Committee staged a press conference on Tuesday to explain many things VAR-related that teams choose to ignore because it’s easier to complain about technology rather than applying some much-needed self-criticism

Just take a look at the Spanish sports newspapers over the last few days. Specifically, those outlets edited in Madrid. All of their front covers have picked VAR as the scapegoat to explain Real Madrid’s lack of positive results and have run with it. “The NeVAR Ending Story” and similar headlines have made their way into the collective mind of the readership.


A fair point of view… if, you know, there was an inch of truth to it.

Everybody and their cat know just how unfair the status-quo of ‘big’ teams, in relation to the judges of the game, has been traditionally in La Liga. Again, we’re not talking about plain cheating here or being blatantly favored by the refs. What used to happen was much more subtle and it followed the trends of any given decade in Spanish football.

Sometimes (most of the time) it was Real Madrid as the club benefitting from this kind stance of the refs, especially in games being held at the Santiago Bernabeu. In other cases it used to be Barça as the one with the ‘special treatment’ during games. Even Atlético de Madrid, over the past few seasons, have taken advantage of their new and current status as a La Liga powerhouse.

Unfortunately for them, VAR is here to change that. At least, it aims to keep it to a bare minimum. And, of course, this has caused its fair share of bickering and complaining.


Possibly the biggest crybabies of the lot have been Real Madrid themselves, with their president Florentino Perez and the media in his pocket desperately seeking an excuse to explain just how poor their season has been to date. After losing at home against Real Sociedad last week (0-2), their attempts at scoffing at the VAR-assisted calls by referee Munuera Montero came off as laughable.

However, the Spanish Referee Committee took on the opportunity to explain themselves even better and used Tuesday’s press conference to ponder and assess the use of VAR in the first half of the 2018-2019 season. Their verdict? “Spanish refereeing is absolutely rock solid, we don’t weave due to the wind”, said boss Velasco Carballo regarding criticism and pressure.

In almost ninety minutes, Carballo and collaborators ran down the most common assumptions and mistakes made by fans and teams alike, and insisted in the need of the clubs to learn the new VAR rules in order to avoid future complaints. Perhaps he was thinking about sides such as Valladolid or Atlético, who declined back in the day to host RFEF officials to explain how VAR works before the season began. Or possibly Real Madrid, who have threatened to boycott RFEF assembly meetings over the Vinicius non-penalty against Real Sociedad.

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Amongst the clarifications offered by Carballo, we should note that during a game…

  • the ref can’t ask for VAR and can’t check a play which raises doubts.
  • VAR can’t warn the main ref if they have doubts on a play, and it only intervenes if there’s evidence of a clear, glaring mistake in a particular call by the main ref.

At the end of the day, the RFEF’s Referee Committee showed a pretty positive view of the system in its first six months: with up to 58 mistakes corrected in 190 La Liga games, it has proven once again that yes, refs make mistakes; that VAR is not perfect, as it also makes mistakes; and that VAR doesn’t expect to completely erase mistakes, only the most glaring ones.

Quite easy to understand, right? As Carballo noted, VAR has been defined by the International Board as “one of the most important changes ever” implemented into the game. It makes it fairer and helps to level the competition: just check out how interesting the current season of La Liga has been.


But, as positive as it seems, VAR will have to battle its fair share of crybabies and complainers before being accepted by everyone. Some of them, unfortunately, with huge levels of tradition behind and a packed trophy room to boot.

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