The blackout in Portuguese football

João Caiado Guerreiro's opinion piece in the newspaper A Bola: "The job of FC Porto's lawyers will be as tricky as it was to score goals against Arouca."
News 11/09/2023

In the 87th minute of the match between FC Porto and Arouca – the away team were winning 1-0 – referee Miguel Nogueira awarded a penalty to striker Medi Taremi. Alerted by the VAR, the referee went to the monitor to watch the move but was told that the monitor lacked electricity. There were no images in a stadium full of light, no way of checking if there had been a penalty, a black hole only minimized by the communication from the AAR (audio referee) who, supposedly, continued to warn that there had been no foul. Miguel Nogueira trusted what the video referee told him and reversed the decision. This was a situation never seen before in the Portuguese league, which meant that, among many other mishaps, the game ended in a one-all draw after 22 minutes of stoppage time. Two significant controversies are the blackout and the time of compensation.

The Refereeing Council complained that the electrical sockets were out of power. The Dragons denied this, saying that the problem was not their responsibility but that of Altice. Altice said no, there were no power failures, nothing. Between the blame game and the criticism of the referee’s performance, FC Porto, as is their right, protested the game, asking for it to be annulled. Do the national runners-up have enough reason and arguments to cancel the match and have it replayed?

From a legal point of view, FC Porto has the right to formalize its complaint following Article 61 of the Rules of Procedure of the FPF Justice Council. But in terms of grounds, the League’s Competition Regulations 23/24 state, in article 47 no. 2, the following: “The occurrence of a technical anomaly, the incorrect functioning, inoperability or non-existence of the VAR system is not grounds for the annulment or postponement of the match.”

Here, and for this reason alone, the job of FC Porto’s lawyers will be as tricky as it was to score goals against Arouca. We’ll see what the FPF’s Justice Council decides under the terms of Art. 108, is responsible for “hearing and deciding on protests about matches in official competitions (…)”.
But there’s more: Was the referee right to use an alternative means to talk to the VAR? The protocol, in the version of the Laws of the Game 23/24, does not oblige the referee to watch the replay on TV – it suggests that he should – saying only that the match referee “either makes a final decision based on his perception, on information from the VAR (…)”. Let’s also understand that, as there was no possibility of showing the images due to a technical fault, the protocol provides an alternative means of communication. As I’ve already mentioned, the one used is the technological system itself.

It is legitimate for those in charge of FC do Porto to think and believe that the match could be replayed. However, that’s different from how the laws of the game work, not least because the VAR team had all the images – everything worked usually at Cidade do Futebol – they just couldn’t be seen in the stadium. And we must remember, as I’ve already mentioned, that the video referee is an integral part of the refereeing team, had the images, and made Miguel Nogueira decide well on that move. For all these reasons, the Right to Goal is going to the light so that it doesn’t fail again so that Portuguese soccer doesn’t go out for good.

The light that never goes out

Our national team has won its fifth game in a row and is one small step away from qualifying for the 2024 European Championship. Here, and for many years now, the light never goes out because the players’ talent, creativity, will and ambition are put at the service of an entire country. And yes, the players are the central figures in a sport we love so much.

Article by João Caiado Guerreiro in the newspaper A Bola.

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