Calls for Football Federation Australia to scrap the use of the Video Assistant Referees have surfaced after a series of controversial incidents in the opening weeks of the A-League season.
The latest was a farcical delay of almost four minutes to confirm an on-field decision in Sydney FC's 2-0 win over Perth Glory which brought into question the manner in which the A-League is using the VAR.
Referee Shaun Evans had awarded Sydney FC a second first-half penalty after a handball by Perth Glory defender Joseph Mills inside the box before the decision was questioned and sent to VAR, Strebre Delovski. It then took three minutes and 44 seconds for the Delovski and Evans to confirm the initial on-field decision, leaving Sydney FC striker Bobo waiting with the ball already placed on the penalty spot.
The A-League released a statement on Saturday saying the delay was due to the Delovski checking two instances of handball in the lead-up to the penalty being awarded. Delovski then wanted the input of Evans because of an obstructed view of the second incident.
A-League chief Greg O'Rourke said in the statement the time it took to come to a final decision was unacceptable.
"This season we have only had three decisions go to referee review out of 16 games, so we should keep last night in perspective but acknowledge it was unacceptable," O'Rourke said. "In general the VAR has worked well."
The implementation of the video assistance is meant to be used sparingly and only in cases of clear and obvious errors and cases of mistaken identity. The FFA was one of the first associations to put their hand up to use the technology in a top tier domestic league and suggested the rare times the VAR would be called into action should take no more than 40 seconds before reaching a decision.
However, Perth Glory coach Kenny Lowe issued a scathing criticism of the lengthy time delays and frequent use of the VAR in the A-League.
"I'd rather the ref hone his craft, polish his skill and make a decision," Lowe said. "Look, we're all human and at the end of the day the VAR isn't a computer, it's another human making a decision so it's fallible. So we've already got someone who is fallible on the pitch, what's the point of making someone fallible upstairs? The guys will make a mistake, everyone get off their back a little bit, but this just compounds it now."
Sources close to Friday night's officials informed Fairfax Media the delay in time was due to the VAR taking the time to assess two potential handball incidents despite only one case of handball being referred by the on-field referee. The incident did not cost Perth Glory the match but Lowe says the A-League's manner of using the VAR has created a grey area.
"Very ordinary. What can you say?" Lowe said. "We're making a mockery of a lovely game. At the end of the day we've got people up there to make a decision, let them do the right thing but if it takes that long to make a decision, it's reasonable doubt."
It's understood Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold was furious with the handling of the matter at the time but reiterated his support of the VAR so long as it leads to correct decisions.
"I don't know why it took so long, but at the end of the day it's there for a reason. I think it's more about everyone getting used to that," he said.
Bobo too was supportive of the concept in theory but was puzzled be being made to wait so long. He showed impressive nerve to score after the delay and having already missed a penalty earlier.
"I like that because sometimes it's too hard for the referee on the pitch but I think it's good. Today it took so long," Bobo said.