FIFA’s insistence to use VAR ‘with increasing rigour’ during the Women’s World Cup has drawn accusations of sexism from many involved at the tournament in France.
Many influential figures in the game have lambasted FIFA, the world governing body, for making the Women’s World Cup, the highest level of the women’s game, an effective experiment for introducing changes to the way penalties are reviewed.
The directive to use VAR ‘with increasing rigour’ came as a result of a law change by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which clarified that goalkeepers can now have one foot on the line rather than two as a kick is taken.
The decision to introduce it in France for this tournament has prompted suggestions of sexism, as there was no such order by UEFA for it to happen in the Nations League Finals in Portugal.
At the Women’s World Cup, both Nigeria and Scotland have fallen foul of goalkeeper position reviews, allowing France and then Argentina to retake crucial penalties. The decision against Scotland cost them their place at the tournament.
In a shambolic sequence of events that led to Argentina recovering from 3-0 down to equalise against the Scots, referee, Hyang-ok Ri, had earlier allowed a free-kick to be taken before a substitute had been able to get into position.
However, it was the disallowed penalty save that will haunt Scotland for years. A VAR review showed the Scottish goalkeeper had moved off her line milliseconds before the kick was taken, putting Hyang-ok under a great deal of pressure to ask for the spot-kick to be retaken. The incident involving Scotland came just two days after Nigeria were penalised for a similar offence during a 1-0 loss to hosts France.
Accusations of sexism and using the Women’s World Cup as an experiment are not justified though, as it could be argued that the men’s game has been used for experimentation for decades.
In contrast to the Women’s World Cup, the Premier League will leave it to the on-field referee’s discretion to order any VAR reviews on a goalkeepers’ position when the new season starts.
IFAB have indicated that the Premier League does not have the powers to reject the use of VAR if the technology is in place, but sources at the Premier League are confident that they won’t be challenged on their position.
The goal-line penalty rule is one of 11 significant changes to be launched for this summer’s Women’s World Cup. For example, substitutes must leave the pitch at the nearest line rather than walking slowly back towards the technical area; there is a new rule on goal-kicks which ensures the ball is in play as soon as the keeper kicks it; managers will be warned that they will be sent off if they enter the video operation room; there are clearer rules on play being stopped when the ball hits the referee; and the drop-ball will be abandoned altogether.
Introducing new laws will always have an element of ‘experimentation’ about it, but to call it out as sexist as these laws are being introduced during the Women’s World Cup, is a little hard to take.