Thursday, 2 May 2019

UEFA and VAR Must Also Take Responsiblity for Jan Vertonghen's Head Injury

The following incident occurred in the 31st minute of the UEFA Champions League semifinal first-leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax on Tuesday 30 April 2019.

From a direct free kick, two attacking players from Tottenham (white 4 and 5) both come together with Ajax goalkeeper (blue 24). Jan Vertonghen's face (white 5) smashes into the back of Toby Alderweireld's head (white 4), leaving Vertonghen lying on the ground in an awkward position. Blood pours from a cut on his nose.

Question 1: At the free kick restart, is Vertonghen in an offside position?
Question 2a: Who is challenging for the ball?
Question 2b: Who is interfering with play?

This is a difficult incident to assess, discuss and manage because first, some will claim Alderweireld was onside and had every right to challenge for the ball. Second, others will also add that in situations where there is a mix of onside and offside players, ARs must wait to see who touches the ball.

Third, UEFA, as the competition organizer, plus the Head of Referees have GUIDELINES instructing ARs to KEEP THEIR FLAGS DOWN in offside situations or tight offside situations until either a goal is scored, a penalty kick is awarded or the ball goes out of play. The reasoning for this guideline is simple: since there is now video technology, match officials can allow the game to flow until there is a convenient break in the game to allow a review.

However, it is this reasoning (to allow the game to flow and to be an entertaining spectacle) where it can be argued that UEFA and the Head of Referees must take responsibility for this collision and ALL OTHER collisions where their instructions have downgraded the safety of players.

The VAR guidelines ignore players safety because, as in Vertonghen's case, an offside player is allowed to challenge and potentially collide with opposition players (and even their own teammates). Essentially, ARs who keep their flags down on offside players are permitting a potential collision between charging attacking players and onrushing defending players or goalkeepers.

The question is, are the current VAR guidelines a good thing or not?


  1. This is a dumb and embarrassing post. If he was onside, the collision still would've happened, so then who would you be blaming? Accidents happen.

  2. Thank you Anon. I am talking about players in offside positions who are being allowed to continue with play due to the VAR directive/protocol. If this is the case, then statistically players in offside positions are closer to onrushing goalkeepers and therefore are at higher risk of collisions.

    If you have AR experience, you will understand this trade off (between allowing play to continue and lowering the risk of collisions). This post aims to generate discussion about this trade off.