Football Federation Australia remains committed to its trial of the controversial Video Assistant Referee and will continue to use the innovation in the A-League for the foreseeable future, in spite of a series of errors and delays to games.
Head of the A-League, Greg O'Rourke, refused to suspend the season-long trial of the VAR after a series of delays, inconsistencies and errors plagued another weekend of games. Central Coast Mariners had two players sent off in their 2-0 loss to Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night after the VAR intervened in the on-field decisions to award yellow cards to Wout Brama and Jake McGing, encouraging the referee to upgrade the punishment to red-card offences.
Many are now questioning the very merit and principles of the use of VAR, which is meant to be used sparingly and only in cases of clear and obvious errors - rather than for re-refereeing the game. Fans stormed out of Central Coast Stadium in disgust at the VAR's handling of the red cards, and a member of the Mariners coaching staff was sent off for throwing a water bottle in protest as the spectacle was tarnished by the latest controversy.
It was the third game of the weekend overshadowed by the video referees after Newcastle Jets were awarded a contentious late penalty to beat Adelaide United 2-1, with the VAR failing to overrule what appeared to be an incorrect decision from the on-field referee. Sydney FC striker Bobo went unpunished for kicking an opponent off the ball on Friday night, while Melbourne City's Manny Muscat was sent off in the same game after intervention from the VAR.
While the use of the VAR is yet to show signs of improvement in the A-League, O'Rourke reaffirmed his commitment to the system and fixing the manner of its use, rather than scrapping it altogether.
"The VAR is set to be introduced in more global leagues around the world next year and it is a case of getting it right rather than walking away from the trial. Most other Australian sports have been using technology and referees and umpires in the stands or central hubs for many years and have taken time to improve the systems," O'Rourke said.
"We are rightfully impatient as a sport to see this perfected much quicker and that is our aim as well. We will make some more changes to the way we approach the use of VAR in time for the next round."
His comments follow criticism from coaches and players calling for the FFA to abandon the project, suggesting it is undermining the growth of the game.
Western Sydney Wanderers forward Brendon Santalab slammed the overuse of the VAR in the A-League in spite of his team benefiting from two decisions on Saturday night against the Mariners. Santalab says the trial runs the risk of turning fans off the sport as the quality of entertainment is diminished by the delays and controversy surrounding the VAR.
"I feel for the fans watching these games because we have fans waiting two, three minutes for decisions. The fans are getting upset, the players are standing around - it's a lose-lose," he said. "Something has to be done, it's unacceptable from the fans' perspective and the players' perspective. The crowd wants to see a flowing game, goals, entertainment. That's not entertainment."
Mariners coach Paul Okon also called for the VAR to be scrapped, after losing Brama and McGing to red cards in the second half of their defeat to Western Sydney.
"If you came to this game tonight and you left here no longer in love with football, who could blame you?" Okon said. "I think it's probably what everyone is talking about and that's not the reason why people are turning up watching, it's not why we turn up to play and coach."