Progressing with the era: The Introduction of VAR in South African Football

5 Min Read

As the Premier Soccer League (PSL) had previously approved integrating Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology across all premier-level matches, recent events unfolding on the pitch have underscored the pressing necessity for a technological overhaul within South African football.


Example: In the DStv Premiership 2023/24 football match between Cape Town Spurs and Mamelodi Sundowns at Athlone Stadium on April 9, 2024, Peter Shalulile of Mamelodi Sundowns was fouled by Asanele Velebayi of Cape Town Spurs outside the penalty box, resulting in a penalty being awarded.


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Introduction of VAR and Goal Line Technology in Football



Goal line technology was first implemented in 2014, with its inaugural use occurring during a match between Rotterdam and RKC Waalwyk on April 6th.


Since its introduction, hawk-eye technology has enjoyed significant success globally, empowering referees to make precise touchline and goal-line decisions in real-time.


Two years following the implementation of goal-line technology, a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was introduced to football. This introduction sparked debates among teams, coaches, and passionate supporters during its early stages. Despite the controversies associated with VAR, referees gained the ability to rectify on-field errors through replays and input from video assistant referees.


Overall, VAR has proven to be a notable advancement in the sport, continually evolving and refining the beautiful game year after year.


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Deliberations on VAR Implementation in the PSL


Despite more than 55 leagues worldwide incorporating VAR technology, South African football continues to rely solely on on-field referees for decisions.


Reports surfaced last year indicating that the South African Football Federation had sanctioned the utilization of VAR in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), subsequently notifying FIFA of their intentions. However, discussions regarding the implementation of VAR in South African football quickly waned, despite persistent fan discontentment expressed on a regular basis.


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Significance of Every Decision.


The recent DStv Premiership encounter between Cape Town Spurs and Mamelodi Sundowns at Athlone Stadium underscored the urgent need for VAR implementation in South African football.


In the 40th minute of the match, Sundowns were granted a penalty after Peter Shalulile was brought down on the edge of the Spurs’ box. Initially perceived as a foul inside the penalty area by the referee, Spurs took to their social media platforms, sharing an image illustrating that the foul occurred outside the 18-yard area.


Despite the controversy, Sundowns clinched a 1-0 victory, leaving Spurs feeling aggrieved by the referee’s error.


In the broader context, while a draw might not have significantly impacted Sundowns’ pursuit of the 2023/24 league title, given their comfortable 13-point lead over second-placed Stellenbosch FC with 10 games remaining, the stakes were higher for Spurs. Sitting five points away from a PSL Relegation play-off spot with seven matches left to play, every decision carries immense weight for their survival in the league.


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Urgent Need for VAR Implementation in South Africa


Several African countries, including Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt, have already integrated VAR into their professional leagues. Moreover, the effective utilization of VAR during the recent Africa Cup of Nations garnered praise from supporters and pundits worldwide.


In conclusion, the introduction of VAR can significantly enhance the standard of officiating in the Premier Soccer League (PSL). Embracing this technology will not only elevate the quality of refereeing but also contribute to the continued growth of the league as one of the premier football competitions on the African continent.


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