Germans sack video ref chief as VAR system shrouded in controversy again

By Andrew Warshaw

November 7 – The official in charge of video replays in the Bundesliga has been stripped of his role as opposition mounts against a system FIFA president Gianni Infantino is determined to use at the World Cup next year.

Referee supervisor Hellmut Krug was sacked amidst accusations of influencing matches in another example of the need for far more experimentation before the system is given the green light by the game’s lawmakers.

VARs are being trialled this season in several countries including Italy and Germany where it has caused persistent controversy with a number of wrong rulings that have had the opposite effect to that intended.

On Monday, Germany’s highly respected magazine Kicker ran the headline ‘Only Losers: Irritation, sanctions, wrong decisions’ on its front cover next to an image of a referee showing a red card.

VARs are supposed to come into play over four specific areas: disputed goals, penalties, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity. But Kicker claims the system was recently changed to include contacting the referee on the field if the assistants thought he or she might have got something wrong.

On Friday, a day after Kicker’s revelations, DFB President Reinhard Grindel said he knew nothing about the apparent change insisting that it was still his belief that the referee should have the final say and that VARs “should not be an overriding referee.”

Bild Am Sonntag reported at the weekend that Krug – who has lost his place on the German FA (DFB)’s referee commission – was accused of unduly influencing two VAR penalty decisions in Schalke’s favour in the 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg in October. Krug, who apparently lives close to Schalke’s ground, rejected those allegations, telling Bild: “As supervisors we have no power to influence the video assistant referee’s decision or even overrule it.”

However, the DFB announced on its website on Monday that it had made a decision in conjunction with the German Football League to remove Krug from the post. The statement said VAR trials will now be led directly by referees chief Lutz Michael Frohlich “because of the high significance for German football and the recent irritations.”

Borussia Moenchengladbach coach Dieter Hecking said following his side’s 1-1 draw at Mainz last weekend – a result also affected by controversial VAR decisions – that he believes the trial period could be scrapped mid-season, which would represent a significant psychological blow to the campaign for  VARS to become part of the game internationally.

“I daresay it will be scrapped in the winter break,” he said.

Meanwhile, former World Cup referee Bernd Heynemann told Kicker that “referees are only puppets on a string now. The decisions are made in a dark room in Cologne. And that’s just not possible.”

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