One of the worst-received aspects of the Women’s World Cup this summer was the VAR-induced penalty kick debacle. The choice to subject goalkeepers’ feet locations to exacting scrutiny with video review, and to let penalty takers try their kicks again should VAR detect that a keeper drifted a centimeter too far off her line, memorably tainted a few matches. It was such a nuisance that FIFA made an in-tournament switch to not award yellow cards for what is traditionally an ignored infraction, but the annoying retakes remained through the end of the tournament.
Thankfully, now that European soccer is back up and running, UEFA has decided to do away with VAR in these situations, except for in the most obvious instances. Following the Premier League’s announcement earlier this summer that VAR will not be used to judge goalkeepers coming off their lines during penalties, European soccer’s governing body revealed that VAR will only be used if there is “a blatant and clear violation of [the] new law.”
UEFA decided on this usage rule before the UEFA Super Cup between Liverpool and Chelsea on Wednesday, but it wasn’t common knowledge until after Liverpool goalkeeper Adrián left his line by a tiny bit before making the game-winning shootout save.
Under the Women’s World Cup rules, the penalty would have been reviewed and likely retaken, despite the fact that Adrián’s save was more due to Tammy Abraham’s poor kick than any minuscule advantage Adrián earned by stepping an inch too far forward.
Given that UEFA also administers the Champions League and the Europa League, the choice to allow referees to do their jobs without VAR should help suppress the creeping influence that the review system has had on soccer since its implementation. Considering how bad the top organizations in soccer are at learning from each other’s mistakes, this small tweak is a huge win for those who don’t wish to see soccer re-litigated down to the millimeter.