Lutz Michael Fröhlich, the head of referees at Germany’s football association (DFB), was candid in acknowledging how the Bundesliga struggled to implement Video Assistant Referees (VAR) last season.
“There were difficulties initially during the first half. Not everything was totally optimal,” Fröhlich told a press conference at DFB headquarters in Frankfurt on Friday. “It was, thank god, put to better use in the second half.”
The figures that the DFB and the DFL, the organization in charge of Germany’s top two divisions, presented on Friday seemed to prove his point. After 50 VAR interventions in the first half of last season, video referees were only involved in 32 decisions in the second half.
The decisions were also made more quickly, dropping from a 61-second average in the first part of the season to a 53-second average in the second — both lower than the 80 seconds it took on average for referees at the World Cup in Russia.
“Referees began making decisions on the field and did not rely on VAR,” Fröhlich said. “They operated under the motto: the referee is responsible if the VAR gets used.”
Nonetheless, Bundesliga fans sustained their disdain for VAR from the first matchday to the last. Spectators in the stadium held up signs protesting the system and German newspapers pasted incorrect VAR decisions on their back pages.