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Volume 7 No. 149
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Hangin' With ... French Int'l Referee Benoît Bastien

Benoît Bastien has been a FIFA int'l referee since '14.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

BENOÎT BASTIEN is a French professional football referee. He has been an int’l referee for FIFA since ’14. After trialing the video assistant referee system in Coupe de la Ligue matches last season, the French Professional Football League (LFP) announced it would use VAR in every Ligue 1 match in the ’18-19 season. A recent study showed that one in nine French football fans approve of the system so far. Bastien spoke with SBD Global about the introduction of VAR in France and its impact on his profession.

On how VAR has been introduced ... 
Benoît Bastien: Very well. It’s a supplemental tool. The more tools that can help us, the better and the more likely we are able to fulfill our mission in the best way possible.

On how the VAR system operates ...
Bastien: The flow of communication works in two ways. The video referee must verify everything that happens in the penalty box, even if nobody asks for anything. There is no delay. It is just necessary for the match to not resume until the checks are done, once [the match] has stopped naturally or by the referee. That is the adjustment that was integrated into our refereeing: knowing to not allow the match to resume. Before, we were told that when the ball left the pitch, we needed to resume quickly; we never tried to delay the players. Now, it’s the opposite.

On the difference between the on- and off-field VAR usage ...
Bastien: We see it two different ways. On the field, we are still the referees we’ve always been. At times, we receive information from the fourth referee, from our assistants or the additional refs present in certain competitions. Then there is the mobile unit. We have learned to process the information with a little more time because now we can review the actions. And obviously the game is stopped. Thanks to that, we have time to communicate.

On reviewing video ... 
Bastien: That is the other approach, a new role to learn. We have an enormous amount of footage at our disposal. We need to choose the best, from the best angles. And you must be fast, be fair, good and precise. There is also a form of pressure when we are looking at the screen, because we know we have to hurry.

On the impact on your refereeing ...
Bastien: Not one. I referee just like I have always done. I just know that at any moment, if my colleague in the mobile unit calls me, I have a protocol to apply and I may need to review some footage. But it does not change [how I ref].

On how VAR affects your confidence in refereeing ...
Bastien: It reassures me. It is important to us that we do not make mistakes and create injustice. When that is the case, it’s bad. Now, we have a lifesaver that can correct a gross error. We have the opportunity to correct things live, and that relieves a sort of pressure. … We sometimes make mistakes that are not seen by the public. The important thing in the end is that we are better assisted and can make the right decision.

On the reactions from players ...
Bastien: Today, they know that we can verify with video. The players have confidence in the technology. When we tell them that the video confirmed [a decision], its OK. ... Referees that have been able to correct some mistakes know what they are avoiding from the past.

Hangin' With runs every Friday in SBD Global.