Real Madrid’s VAR controversy illustrates the pressures Spanish referees face

Real Madrid’s VAR controversy illustrates the pressures Spanish referees face

“I’ve seen some of these videos. You try to get away, but in the end they get to you,” Spanish referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez told COPE radio last November.

“It is not the ideal situation to referee a football match. We referees have a lot of experience, but there is a general tension. They have put the image of the referee as the enemy, which is very negative for us.”

Hernandez Hernandez was asked about his regular appearance in Real Madrid Television (RMTV) videos compiled by that club’s official internal channel to support claims that he and some other referees are biased against their team. One notorious example was an 11-minute package of supposedly incorrect key decisions by Hernandez Hernandez himself, all against Madrid, broadcast days before he took charge of the crucial La Liga “derby” against neighbors Atletico in March 2021.

“I’m not saying he shouldn’t referee Real Madrid’s matches. I’m saying there’s no way he should keep refereeing at all, given all these mistakes we just showed,” Miguel Angel Munoz, RMTV’s deputy director, said during the clip. .

Hernandez Hernandez was recently mentioned on RMTV last Thursday night, after Real Madrid were eliminated from the Copa del Rey by Atletico, with station director Jesus Alcaide including him on a list of officials who are supposedly biased against Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

This history was recalled by many after Hernandez Hernandez’s performance as a VAR official during Real Madrid’s La Liga match with Almeria at the Bernabeu on Sunday. The home team were 2-0 down at half-time but came back to win 3-2 as three huge VAR-assisted decisions went their way.

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Three times between the 57th and 67th minutes, Hernandez Hernandez intervened to ask referee Francisco José Hernandez Maiso to review his initial decisions.

The first came after a cross ball entered the Almeria area, and the ball went out for a goal kick. In the audio recording subsequently released by the Spanish Football Federation, Hernandez Hernandez told Hernandez Maiso: “I will recommend an on-pitch review to consider a possible penalty kick due to a handball by an Almería defender.”

Hernandez Maiso accepted the recommendation, and Jude Bellingham converted the penalty to halve the deficit.

Then, a counter-attack began for the visitors, after Dion Lopi crossed Bellingham near the halfway line, and Sergio Arribas finished it off, putting bottom club Almería 3-1 ahead. Hernandez Hernandez stepped in again to say to his less experienced teammate: “I will recommend you look at the possible foul while moving towards goal. I will show you the contact, it is in the same attack phase.

Lopi was penalized for Bellingham’s foul, and Madrid remained just one goal behind.

The third incident was when Vinicius Junior converted a cross to make it 2-2, and Hernandez Maiso immediately disallowed the goal due to a handball from the Brazilian. “I’ll show you: I hit him in the right shoulder, okay?” Hernandez Hernandez says.

Once again, Hernandez Maiso reversed his decision.

All three invitations were highly controversial, and indeed much discussed.

Some pundits and fans felt that Madrid striker Joselu’s push contributed to the penalty kick’s handball. Lopy’s foul on Bellingham was perhaps the most obvious, but Hernandez Maiso had a full view of the incident from close range and saw no problem in real time.

Most problematic was Vinicius Junior’s handball, particularly the images used in making the decision to allow the goal. Almería’s official Twitter account questioned why the VAR team did not show Hernandez Maiso another angle of the incident, one that viewers at home saw as part of the television broadcast of the match.

Among those who shared their views on Sunday evening was Jaume Rores, founder of Mediapro, the Catalan company that supplies VAR systems to several leagues across Europe, Africa and South America. “I want to confirm that the images of Vinicius’ goal shown by the VAR were wrong,” Roris told Cadena Ser Radio on Sunday evening. “The television replay from the front clearly showed that he scored with his arm.”

Roris said broadcasters submit all images to VAR officials, who then decide which images the referee sees on the pitch. He said: “In the Madrid match, there will be more than 20 (working) cameras.” “Then the VAR operators and referees decide how to use it. They get all the live images, without editing them.

Mediapro is the company that introduced the first season of VAR technology in Spain in 2018-2019. Midway through the season, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez called then-Spanish Federation president Luis Rubiales to complain about decisions made against his team. At the end of that season, Mediapro was replaced by Sony-owned Hawk Eye, which runs the current system.

The same company also produced RMTV for 18 years, until its contract was not renewed in 2019 and the Bernabeu hierarchy switched partners to Telefonica and Supersport. Unsurprisingly, the club’s television station has always been very supportive of its team. However, in recent years, videos claiming that certain referees are against them have become more common, often broadcast in the days before that referee takes charge of a Madrid match.

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The head of Spain’s referees’ committee, Luis Medina Cantalejo, said earlier this month that he did not like these videos, but he also did not believe they had an impact on referee appointments or decisions made during matches.

“No other team, in any sport in the world, does something like this,” Medina Cantalejo said. “It is not positive for the competition to try to put pressure on one of the referees before the match, and this is the goal of these videos. But the referees must be prepared (to deal with) this matter. This does not worry me, nor does the referee worry.”

Pérez has often publicly criticized the standard of refereeing in Spanish football, stating that many decisions went against his team, including during VAR reviews.

“Sensitive and important issues such as the quality of arbitration and the application of VAR technology depend directly on the Spanish Federation,” he said at Madrid’s General Assembly last November. “No one knows who draws these VAR lines, or what framework they choose for them. This happens constantly, and raises doubts about Spanish arbitration. I am confident that the Spanish government will act and take the necessary measures to revamp the arbitration structures in our country.”

The previous month, Roris was fired from Mediapro, after 30 years running the company. Last December, the Spanish Football Federation awarded the company a contract to operate VAR technology in Spanish football again from next season, while Hawk-Eye will introduce its own semi-automatic offside system.

La Liga president Javier Tebas is also keen to see reforms in how refereeing, including VAR, is managed in Spain. Tebas said The athlete Last summer, it would have been better to create a new independent body – similar to the situation in place in the English Premier League.

In another of the tangled relationships within Spanish football, Tebas and Reus were business partners. Rores is also a long-term partner of FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta, and his company Orpheus Media helped finance some of the “leverages” made by the Catalan club in recent transfer windows to allow them to sign new players despite their huge debts.

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Meanwhile, the judicial investigation into Barcelona’s payments to former chief referees Jose María Enríquez Negrera continues, with Real Madrid and Perez officially entering legal proceedings as aggrieved parties.

Enriquez Negrera and Barcelona denied any wrongdoing, and the club said he had been appointed as an “external consultant” who provided reports “related to professional arbitration.”


After Dani Carvajal scored the winning goal in the 99th minute in Sunday’s match, Almeria was angry.

The team’s midfielder Gonzalo Melero said: “We leave the field feeling that the match was stolen from us.” “The penalty kick, the hand goal, the disallowed goal… it goes beyond all limits. If we want to be the best league in the world, we are light years away.”

Madrid’s reaction was calm.

Coach Ancelotti just said he felt all three VAR decisions were correct, while Carvajal added: “If Melero watched those matches calmly, he would surely realize that they were all refereed correctly.”

“We are not used to seeing justice done,” critic Alvaro de la Lama said on RMTV. “We just want the technology to be used properly.”

Meanwhile, Hernandez Hernandez has been defended by former colleagues who now work in the media. “We cannot allow RMTV to continue hounding our governors,” Cesar Muniz Fernandez told Onda Cerro radio station.

After his side’s 4-2 win over Real Betis later on Sunday, Barcelona coach Xavi said: “I will be punished if I speak out, but everyone saw what happened in Madrid. I already said that it will be very difficult to win this league. I remember the obvious penalty against Getafe (in August), against Rafinha in Vallecas (in the November match against Rayo Vallecano), and another one against Joao Felix… it’s like that. We should get six more points.”

RMTV director Alcaide responded by claiming that Xavi’s “entire career” as a Barcelona player should be considered “under suspicion”, referring to payments made by Barcelona to former refereeing chief Negrira between 2001 and 2018 – which is being investigated for possible corruption in a case brought by prosecutors. the public. Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Despite all the ongoing controversy, on Monday morning, Vinicius Junior had no problem posting a photo of the angle that was used to score his goal. “GOLAZO!!! “That’s how I always did it on Copacabana beach,” the Brazilian striker wrote.

On Tuesday, the Spanish Football Federation announced that it had filed a complaint with the police after audio of further VAR deliberations in Sunday’s match leaked to Spanish media.

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The Spanish Football Federation files a complaint with the police regarding the leak of the video assistant referee for the match between Real Madrid and Almeria

Hernandez Hernandez has been appointed as the VAR referee for Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final between Atletico and Sevilla. As one of Spain’s most senior officials, he knows that, sooner or later, he will be named again in a Madrid fixture and will face difficult decisions to make.

Elsewhere on the same November radio program mentioned at the top of this article, Hernandez Hernandez was asked if he was more worried when he learned he would be in charge of a match involving Real Madrid.

He replied: “Honestly, I deal with the matter in the same natural way as any other match, and I hope that the match goes well and as cleanly as possible.”

“You hope there are no ‘grey’ decisions when you are in trouble no matter what you do.”

(Top image: Alberto Jardin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(Tags for translation)Real Madrid

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