Når VAR spiller med: Et diskursanalytisk studie af VAR-teknologiens indførelse i dansk fodbold

Andreas Bang Møller & Charlotte Welzel Andersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Technological development is rapidly transforming most aspects of modern society, and is consequently affecting expectations to the precision of processes previously handled with larger room for (human) maneuvering. Overall, the thesis seeks to examine this trend by investigating the implications of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology on Danish professional football. Specifically, the thesis analyses ways in which the VAR technology can ascribe new meaning to the sport through various discursive positions. The analytical strategy is inspired by Laclau’s Discourse Theory, which frames the different meanings fixations. Empirically, the thesis relies on data gathered from qualitative interviews, articles, press releases, rulebooks, and official documents from high profile international football organisations.
The thesis finds that the fixity of meaning happens within three main categories: First, VAR questions the role and professionalism of the referee. Second, VAR affects the quality of the Danish football championship tournament (Superligaen) and the overall entertainment value of the sport. While lastly, the new technology raises overall fairness-questions, which can be subcategorized into rule-regulations, sportsmanship, and technical and timely fairness. In particular, the latter concerns whether VAR’s rulings on ‘clear and obvious’ mistakes can be defined within a timeframe.
Based on the analysis, the thesis argues that the VAR-technology can be seen as a steering technology, a concept introduced in Michel Foucault’s work on power relations. An example is the referees’ potential behavioral change. The technology can further be seen as a Panopticon, which means that the players constantly feels surveilled, and therefore self-surveil. By doing this, the thesis argues, the players’ behavior positively improves. From a ‘Bourdieusian’ perspective, the thesis also argues that the technology entails self-observation within the organisations FIFA and DBU, where FIFA for example perceives itself as an organisation that stands for fairness and rule-regulation.
In conclusion, the thesis proposes two possibilities to overcome the unintended and unwanted consequences of VAR. On the one hand, a possibility is to set a maximum time in which VAR can be used and the flow of the game is preserved, while on the other hand, a fixed amount of time can be set, so that the game is always stopped for the same amount of time every time VAR is used. This thesis shows that VAR is introduced to minimize referee errors, but that the technology cannot be installed without unforeseen consequences that risk changing entire aspects of the game.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages132
SupervisorsDorthe Pedersen