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| 1 minute read

VARing the VAR

After an exciting football match in Barcelona on Wednesday on 18 December 2019 between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid that ended 0-0, Real Madrid has sought, according to the Spanish media, access to the recordings of the conversations between the referee and the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) team. 

VAR was introduced two seasons ago in the Spanish Football League to help making the task of referees simpler and more certain. After an initial warm welcome in its first year, during the current season, VAR has been bitterly criticized by many clubs, including Barça and Real Madrid for not having amended “obvious” errors of the referee. So far so good. Now Real Madrid wants to somehow “review the reviewer” or, so to speak, to VAR the VAR. 

It allegedly had requested to be allowed to listen the recordings of the messages delivered by the VAR to the referee indicating that everything was fine when broadcasting images showed undeniable penalty infringements (players from both teams making funny statements on the infringements later). The interesting part of Real Madrid's move is the potential answer from La Liga and the Spanish Football Federation. Disclosing conversations held between third parties is a serious criminal law breach in Spain. Furthermore, it could be also considered, depending on the circumstances, as personal information of the referees. The EU General Data Protection Regulation and the new Spanish Data Protection Act would be applicable. Referees could be ordered to cooperate but since privacy is a strongly protected constitutional right in Spain, their consent may be considered void. 

A reasonable Privacy Policy allowing the authorities to disclose those recordings on the basis of compliance with the terms of the agreement establishing the VAR or even the legitimate interest of the Sports Federation could ease things but, was it in place before the match? Generating a proper Privacy Policy for a small group of people like the VAR teams could have easily slipped through. We will watch the progress of the events with care...


barça, real madrid, data protection, private communications, var, football