Video replay does not only exist since the introduction of VAR in football. The discussions about the use of technical aids in controversial or unnoticed scenes are already old – soon be 100 years.
A short journey through time on the development of video replay in football
The history of video replay is also a history of the use of photographic, video and television technology and especially the slow motion.
The aim of the filmmakers of the interwar period was to show their technical skills and to give a visible impression to people who could not attend the sports event on location. In England, for example, it became a new business idea to question referee decisions at football matches using the new slow-motion technology and to create relevance and demand. For example, the final of the FA Cup 1932 was filmed between Newcastle United FC and Arsenal FC and the question of whether or not the ball was in front of the cross and the goal was in goal or not. The still image can be seen in a report from 2015 in The Northern Echo.
Factual decision or video evidence?
At its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 1970, The IFAB first criticised the use of television recording and commentary in conjunction with replay and slow motion that question the authority of the referee. It was unanimously decided at the meeting to ask the TV stations to stop using slow motion and generally to stop reflecting on the referee’s decisions.
“The Board deprecated the emphasis as placed in television recordings and television comment which challenged the authority of the referee. It was agreed to request the television authorities to refrain from any slow motion play-back which reflected, or might reflect, adversely, on any decision of the referee”
Minutes of the AGM of the IFAB, 1970, p. 5 – Link.
I am not able to say whether the number of slow motion decreased in the following years. But it did never diminished again from the late 1960s onward. Also, TV recordings were used again and again and in an increasingly targeted manner as evidence in hearings of the sports court. Until 1977, I am aware of cases in Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and England, and the Soviet Union even stipulated in 1977 that all matches must be filmed for this purpose.
In Germany, the first subsequent conviction on the basis of film material occurred in early 1977: On January 22, 1977, Hans Flohe (1. FC Cologne) and Werner Lorant (RW Essen) clashed and referee Rainer Wallert showed both players the red card. RW Essen brought “the TV film with them, Judge Kirsch let it go. Lorant went out free,” reported the magazine Der Spiegel. The DFB, which according to the Spiegel report had been opposed to the use of TV recording for more than 20 years, reacted horrified:
“If this goes through, we will never get the camera out of the courtroom again,”
predicted Hans Kindermann (then chairman of the DFB control committee and a judge by profession).
If in the 1966 World Cup final, the decision had been insisted on by means of TV recordings – which, as we all know, do not clearly prove anything – then “we would still be sitting there”, said Werner Treichel, the DFB referee chairman from 1977. Also, 14 of the 18 Bundesliga clubs at the time declared themselves against “TV evidence”.
In 1977, Der Spiegel saw the financial burden of the implementation as problematic (“the cheapest equipment of a stadium with camera controls costs 500,000 marks”) and the problem of the distorted angle. Whereby already in 1974 TV pictures were available as evidence for a controversial scene in the DFB Cup semi-final between Eintracht Frankfurt and FC Bayern Munich, but were not used.
In short: In the 1970s it became common practice in several countries to use TV pictures as evidence before the sports court. But the DFB continued to view this development very critically and sceptically.
Three match officials in a glass cabin
In 1976, the two French engineers, Michel Jolly and René Moreau, presented an idea to make the work of referees easier with technical aids. According to their ideas, all three referees sit in an area outside the field in a glass house and have several keys in front of them, which are assigned to different offences. If, for example, at least two of the three impartial players press the “foul” button within seconds and give the same number on their backs (personalised jerseys have not yet been available), a referee announce that a foul has been committed via the stadium loudspeaker. This reads a bit like a science fiction comic from the 1970s, but it’s not that far away from today’s version.
For all small skirmishes, accepted with bad grace
In 1990 the Italian broadcaster RAI boasted of its technical capabilities, which were more advanced than in any other country. Technical possibilities such as the recording of movements on a TV still to clarify tactics or check referee decisions. The Spiegel author calls it a “mixture of computer games” and Orwellian football supervision, while the then FIFA General Secretary, Joseph Blatter, called it “mumbo jumbo”. And the head of organization for the 1990 World Cup, Hermann Neuberger, saw themselves distanced from the reality of football. This did not prevent German TV stations from taking RAI as an example, especially SAT1 with its format “ran”, for which the number of cameras was significantly increased. So “all small skirmishes are in the can”.
The scepticism in Germany and international football associations remained clear. In the minutes of the AGM of The IFAB in1995, video replay is again discussed, for the first time since 1970. This time it was referred to for the first time as “video evidence” (alternatively also “Overturn of Match Results” and “Use of Television Evidence in Deciding a Match Result”). The IFAB supported FIFA’s condemnation that matches were replayed in Germany and Turkey after (subsequent) video replay in court, but allowed the use of TV recordings for disciplinary purposes, i.e. for violations of Rule XII, fouls and misconduct [of the players].
The decisions of the referees are factual decisions, there was no question about it
“Use of Video Evidence. The Board expressed is strong disapproval with respect tot wo decisions taken in germany and Turkey of a match. It emphasized that according to Law V, the decision often he referee on points of fact in connection with play is final and it underlined that audio-visual evidence tob e used solely as additional proof only in disciplinary cases. The Board felt it necessary to request FIFA to give the widest publicity to this reconfirmation often he status often he Laws of the Game. The Board requested that FIFA take the necessary steps to prevent any such occurrences in the future”
Minutes of the AGM The IFAB, 1995, p. 42 – Link.
In the minutes of the following year, it is noted that the decision was revised in Germany, but the decision was only “accept with bad grace”:
“Overturn of Match Results. In respect of the request submitted by FIFA that the rule according to which a referee’s decision on a point of fact is irrefutable was made tot he recent case concerning the DFB. After being sanctioned, the original score was restored, but this had been accepted with bad grace”
Minutes of the AGM of The IFAB, 1996, p. 33 – Link.
What had happened in Germany? On 11 June 1995, at the 33rd matchday of the 1994/95 season, Chemnitz played in the 2nd Bundesliga in Leipzig. After a foul, the referee Michael Prengel showed a Leipzig player Roland Werner a yellow-red card. When the referee noticed seconds later that the Leipzig player had not seen yellow, he showed him the red card. Leipzig lost the game 2:3 and went to court, ordering a replay of the whole game.
This replay went out 1-0 for Leipzig – and was just then revised at the request of FIFA.
Video replay between some movement and on hold
I can’t say whether the DFB changed its stance in the 1990s, but from 2000 onwards, The IFAB began to move step by step rather than stand firmly on its position. The bigger first step in 2000 was called goal-line technology – but only as a radio link, and under no circumstances with the help of camera images.
In 2006 all experiments were put on ice.
“The IFAB has decided that all experiments involving goalline technology are tob e put on ice until further notice.”
Minutes of the AGM of The IFAB, 2006, p. 3 – Link.
They resumed in 2009 and in 2013, it was agreed that the organisers of competitions should decide whether or not to install goal line technology. However, if it is installed, it should be used for a long time, so that no advantage is created for any club.
“Goal line technology (submitted by the FIFA). It was decided that the competition organiser should decide on the use of GLT in ist competitions. There was unanimous agreement that if the facility of GLT was available in a stadium, it should be used as there was no advantage to either team”
Proposed amendments to the AGM of the IFAB, 2013, p. 3 – Link.
The DFB did not care about the reprimand and in 1997 had the match between 1860 Munich and the KSC repeated.
However, no progress was made on the subject of video replay at the beginning of the 2000s.
“Video Evidence (submitted by the Irish Football Association). The irish Football Association raised the issue of referees changing their decision after having viewed the game on video. After a constructive discussion, it was unanimously agreed that the Board should re-affirm the status of Law 5 which states that ‘decisions often he referee regarding facts of play are final’. The Board also reiterated that under no circumstances could the result of a match be changed following the viewing of video evidence.”
Minutes of the AGM of The IFAB, 2003, p. 14 – Link.
On the agenda for the AGM 2006 is the proposal of the French Football Federation to test a video system that could assist referees, but as no test procedure was presented in the coming years, this proposal was probably rejected. In addition, it was proposed in 2006 that no team officials should have access to the cameras at the edge of the field.
“As a result of the increasing presence of monitors around the boundaries of the field of play for broadcasting purposes The IFAB underlines that it is forbidden for occupants of the technical area to have access to or be in a position to view pitchside monitors”.
Agenda for the AGM of the IFAB, 2006, p. 3 – Link.
Yes and no
Joseph Blatter as FIFA chairman said repeatedly during this period that there would be no video evidence with him and his opinion was shared by many referees. Hellmut Krug, in particular, took a clear and repeated stand on this issue in the 2000s. On the other hand, various officials expressed their willingness to introduce video replay in order to make the game fairer and relieve the burden on the referees. One of them was the then DFB chairman Theo Zwanziger shortly after the referee scandal involving Robert Hoyzer.
Shortly after the refereeing scandal in Germany became known, the Bundesliga match between Bayer Leverkusen and VfB Stuttgart, in which referee Franz-Xaver Wack revised his decision to kick and gave a corner kick, provided plenty of food for discussion. In itself no reason for excitement, had it not been for the slow-motion replay on the stadium screen. So the assumption arose that Wack would have revised his decision, because he would have noticed his wrong decision by looking at the stadium screen. Wack denied it, as did Hellmut Krug, head of the refereeing department at the time.
The video replay gets a chance – the birth of VAR
Nevertheless, shortly before Blatter’s term as FIFA Chairman, the IFAB began discussing the video evidence, which was now called video replay rather than video evidence. This term has not been changed since. In the AGM 2015, The IFAB presented a test by the Dutch association KNVB, which is familiar to all of us and was launched in the Netherlands on 6 April 2011: Additional assistant referees who are connected to the referee by radio, can access television images and sit in a van outside the stadium. Michiel de Hoog, sports journalist for the Dutch newspaper Correspondent, recently published a longread on the subject after he had been given access to the KNVB’s documents ((Michiel de Hoog: En de KNVB schiep de VAR en maakte het voetbal rechtvaardiger (maar het gehet bleef). In: de Correspondent (09.04.2019).)).
After the project had been presented in the AGM, the associations expressed that they remained sceptical, but would like to support this project. Only FIFA with spokesman Joseph Blatter distanced himself from further steps, recalled the role of the IFAB as the “guardian of the game” and asked for further experiments with video replay technology and to fully understand the possible advantages and disadvantages before a decision could be made.
“P[atrick] N[elson] informed the members of different discussions, ideas and proposals surrounding the use of video replay technology as a support for the referee. […] He mentioned that the KNVB had conducted an (offline) experiment, using referee video assistance based on video footage provided by broadcasters’ cameras. He added that, during the experiment, the referee could have received additional information from a so-called video assistant (in a separate room / van) with access to camera footage and the ability to inform the referee instantly via a headset in crucial situations which appear difficult to be seen by the referee. PN also mentioned briefly mentioned another approach presented at the 64th FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo in 2014, whereby a challenge system for team managers and coaches could be implemented, which would enable them to request a review of a referee’s decision. However, after having seen the project conducted in the Netherlands, the SFA support further investigations by the panels to gather more recommendations. […]
The FA stressed that video replays should only be allowed to help or support the referee. The debate should be around how the technology can be used to improve the game. The experiment from the KNVB should be encouraged and also continued by other parties in order to find strong arguments to form the basis for further recommendations. […]
The FAW has been opposed to the introduction of technology in the past. However, in recent years technology has proven to be of great assistance to match officials (i.e. goal-line technology). But a major role of The IFAB is to protect the game and its universality. The FAW’s concerns related to the changing of the game, with a possible diminution of the referee’s authority as the video assistant takes on more influence. They felt this could result in ever-increasing pressure on the referee from the spectators, players, and coaches. Very careful consideration was needed, they said, because once you start down this direction, there is no way back. On behalf of FIFA, JB stated that The IFAB functions as guardian of the game and has in the past decided not to o any further with technology than goal-line technology[…]
Therefore, more experiments should be conducted with video assistance in order to understand its potential advantages and disadvantages fully before a decision can be taken.”
Minutes of the AGM of The IFAB, 2015, pp. 12-14 – Link.
It was Blatter’s last AGM. In 2016, Gianni Infantino was already sitting in his place. And among other things, the 2016/17 season saw the start of the offline test phase for VAR in the 1st Bundesliga.