Collina on how he changed refereeing and evolving VAR

Pierluigi Collina has been named the best referee of all time and explains how he changed the role of officials in football, from study to explaining his decisions, but VAR is still ‘a child that learned to walk, not yet run.’

He retired 16 years ago, but France Football gave Collina an award in 2021 as the greatest referee in the history of the sport.

“It makes me very proud,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport magazine Sportweek.

“It’s not for me to say whether I am the best, but I do feel that I contributed to changing the way referees approach the game, by which I mean getting as much information as possible so you can predict what might happen on the pitch, or warming up alongside the players before a game.

“These were small adjustments for me, but they were unusual for my colleagues, only to become routine now.”

Collina revealed he still gets asked for selfies and autographs in the street, even from those who weren’t even born when he was officiating.

Another of the areas where Collina changed the sport was his insistence on dialogue, famously explaining his decision to Inter captain Beppe Bergomi and coach Roy Hodgson during a game with Juventus in 1997.

“It seemed only natural for me to explain what was an atypical decision. Inter scored a goal that initially had been allowed by the assistant and I disallowed it.

“Only after hearing my assistant’s explanation did I realise that I hadn’t seen what I thought was clear, which is Ivan Zamorano knocking the ball on towards Maurizio Ganz for offside.

“Instead, it was a defender who had got the last touch and turned it back. I thought the best way to clarify the situation was to explain myself, so that’s what I did, first with Bergomi on the pitch and then Hodgson on the touchline.

“Hodgson shook my hand, showing everyone that he had understood and it was resolved.”

Collina now helps to train referees and had his say on the use of VAR technology, as well as the ever-changing rules on handling offences.

“If we only penalised intentional handball, there would be hardly any penalties. Which player intentionally goes to punch the ball? This is why the rule was changed, because there are situations where it might be unintentional, but still clearly damages the opponent.

“That is why we penalise players whose arms are in a position that is not justified by their movement.

“It is difficult to find total uniformity when dealing with rules that are in essence open to interpretation. Technology can help to reduce the difference, but it can never eliminate it.

“VAR is like a child that has learned to walk, but not yet to run. In 2014, I participated in the first meeting to discuss the opportunity of technological support for referees. As time goes on, the process will be simplified.”

2 Comments on “Collina on how he changed refereeing and evolving VAR”

  1. “Takes No Prisoners!” Serie A even had the best ref’s in the 90’s! Character. Good at his job. Made the players shishkebab themselves from time to time! But was universally respected as he didn’t get in the way of the game.

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