There were a few stars of this year's superb World Cup: Luka Modric, Kylian Mbappé and Harry "slab-head" Maguire to name but a few. But it could be argued VAR outshone them all.
VAR, short for video assistant referee, dominated the World Cup, with the new tech leading to loads of penalties, delayed celebrations and iconic moments when the referee spent five minutes watching a replay on a telly on the side of the pitch.
While the future of VAR remains unclear, what we do know is it won't make an appearance in FIFA 19 - and it doesn't sound like it'll be in the EA Sports series any time soon.
“I’m coming, hold on. I’m just going to speak to the bouncer...” pic.twitter.com/ht84k0oU8e— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) June 25, 2018
There are a couple of reasons for this, according to creative director Matt Prior. The first and most obvious one is FIFA already has VAR - sort of. The game is never wrong when it comes to offside, corner kicks, throw-ins or any decision that involves knowing exactly where the ball and the players are or which player touched the ball last. It's impossible to score an offside goal in FIFA because, well, this is a simulation after all. "We technically have VAR in the game because we know the pinpoint location of everything," Prior told Eurogamer.
FIFA automatically decides what is and isn't a foul as soon as a collision takes place, too. The on-pitch referee running up to the player and giving them a telling off or dishing out a card or awarding a penalty is just for show. Penalties are determined at the point of contact and, while fouls can often feel like the wrong decision when you're playing, the game cannot get the place of the foul wrong. So, there would be no point using VAR to work out, for example, whether a foul occurs inside or outside the box, as FIFA can't be wrong on that.
The question then is, should EA Sports add VAR to FIFA to increase the drama around these decisions? According to Prior, the developer won't consider doing this until VAR feels like it's a part of the fabric of real world football - and despite the World Cup, VAR feels a long way from hitting that goal.
"The World Cup has been interesting," Prior said. "There's still a learning process of how ultimately it levels out to how it's used. There's a grey area. But it's definitely something we'll monitor. If it becomes part of the footballing fabric to the point where it feels weird that it isn't in a regular game, even if we don't need it, then it's something we can look at introducing.
"If there is that anticipation moment in real football that becomes a thing - and if we wanted to create that in our game because of authenticity... if it didn't happen in our game and it's happening all the time in the real game, arguably you could say we're missing a part of the football fabric. So it might then be something we want to do.
"But it's something we're monitoring and keeping an eye on."
So there you have it. No VAR for FIFA 19 and probably not for a while yet. Until then, we'll have to make do with our infallible computer-controlled referees.
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