A major technical failure was behind the video assistant referee (VAR) controversy in Saturday night's A-League grand final, which saw Melbourne Victory's winning goal come from an offside position.
- Video assistant referee (VAR) system malfunctioned in build-up to Victory's goal, which appeared offside and proved to be the winner
- System only came back online when it was too late to overturn the goal as Victory beat Jets 1-0 in A-League grand final
- VAR system will be used throughout 2018 FIFA World Cup
The Victory scored in the ninth minute via Kostas Barbarouses, but the assist for the goal — a header from James Donachie — came after Donachie's run from a free-kick was timed too early.
Broadcast replays showed a clear offside when the free kick was taken, but the VAR appeared not to intervene as the goal stood, ultimately proving to be the winner as the Victory held on to clinch the title at the Newcastle Jets' expense.
But Football Federation Australia (FFA) said, after conducting a review into the incident, that a major glitch in the technology was behind the VAR's inaction, saying the system was lost for 30 seconds in the lead-up to the Victory's goal.
"We are extremely disappointed at this failure of the VAR technology, and we understand the disappointment and frustration of the Newcastle Jets, their fans and indeed all football fans," the FFA's head of the A-League Greg O'Rourke said in a statement.
"VAR was introduced here and in other parts of the world as a technology-based solution to correct the human errors that inevitably are made from time to time when officials are making judgements in split seconds.
"On this occasion the technology itself failed and the broadcast angles required were unavailable. We are working with Hawkeye to thoroughly understand why it did and what can be done to prevent this happening again."
Too late to change decision by time glitch was fixed
It was not until several minutes after goal was awarded that the system was restored — too late to change the decision of the goal, due to the game already being restarted.
VAR regulations state that where there is no clear evidence to the contrary, the on-field decision stands.
In this case, with VAR not functioning, there was technically no evidence to overrule the goal.
The camera feed for broadcaster Fox Sports, which is routed separately to the VAR's feed, was not affected.
"Whilst we understand that this happened only once this season it was at a most critical time. All parties desire the technology to be failure proof and that is what we will be striving for," O'Rourke said.
"This is important not just for the A-League but for other leagues around the world and for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at which VAR will be used for the first time."
Jets mentor Ernie Merrick was far from impressed, saying the early goal made his side's task of breaking the Victory down even tougher.
"I've seen a replay on my phone and it looked offside to me, but what's the whole point of the VAR if they didn't pick it up?" Merrick told Fox Sports.
"It changed the game when a team can defend as much as it defended and its very stop-start after that."
Former Socceroos captain Paul Wade also weighed into the issue, saying Jets fans could feel rightly aggrieved at the goal that proved to be the winner.
"When you've got a VAR … who has a good 30 seconds to make a decision, to have a look at it over and over again, and you still get it wrong?" he told ABC News Breakfast.