The DFL was one of the earliest adopters of video assistant technology, introducing it in the Bundesliga at the start of the 2017-18 season. VAR has since become an established part of German football and was consequently used in the 2018-19 season. The technology has helped increase fairness and the accuracy of refereeing decisions in Bundesliga matches. Sitting in the Video Assist Centre in Cologne, with access to footage from all broadcast cameras, the video assistant can quickly review incidents in a game and relay information to the match referee through his earpiece to help avoid clear mistakes.
To minimise disruption to the flow of a game, VAR has thus far been used only to look at key moments such as goals, possible red cards and penalty claims, and to clear up cases of confusion if the referee has made an obvious mistake or missed an incident. Such has been the success of this implementation that Bundesliga 2 will also introduce VAR in the 2019-20 season. However, in addition to making sure that the decisions made on-field are correct, it is just as important that the process is clear to the spectators watching on television or inside the stadium. This is vital in ensuring that the referees’ decisions are elucidated to the highest levels of transparency. This season, the DFL ticked that box, too.
Sportec Solutions has developed a tool for the DFL that delivers this vital on-screen information from the Video Assist Centre directly to the fans, making the Bundesliga the first league in the world with access to such technology. The process is simple: Broadcasters and other media partners can log in to a website portal and choose which match they wish to receive VAR information from. They receive notifications when a review has begun in the given match, along with details explaining the reason for the check, allowing them to notify viewers by means of corresponding on-screen graphics for a red card, penalty, etc. The clear guidelines and instant updates mean television commentators can keep their audience informed throughout the decision-making-process. This reduces confusion and keeps viewers and listeners up to speed – from the moment the video assistant starts a review until the match referee makes the final call on the pitch.
Innovative technology helps to deliver transparency in all VAR reviews. Integrating the information from the Video Assist Centre into existing match-day operations allows VAR graphics to be produced automatically, rather than broadcast partners having to generate them manually themselves. This is an advantage the DFL enjoys over other football leagues around the world. The operators of big screens inside the stadiums are also given access to the same information and graphics so that fans inside the stadium are kept up to speed. In this way, the DFL is further enhancing not just refereeing, but the transparency of the officials’ decisions as well.