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Spanish FA file police complaint over Real Madrid vs Almeria VAR leak

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has filed a police complaint after audio of VAR deliberations in Sunday’s La Liga match between Real Madrid and Almeria was leaked in the media.

Three decisions informed by VAR Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez played a part in Madrid coming from two goals down to beat Almeria 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday — each of which attracted controversy.

Audio of Hernandez Hernandez intervening to ask on-pitch referee Francisco Jose Hernandez Maeso to take action over these three decisions, made between the 57th and 67th minutes, was published by the RFEF after the match.

The publication of such audio is a practice that only began earlier in January, in a joint move between La Liga and the Spanish FA. Only discussions that take place between the officials when the on-field referee is called over to the pitchside monitor are made available.

However, audio relating to another incident later in the game, an apparent confrontation between Madrid winger Vinicius Junior and an Almeria player, was then broadcast by online outlet Jijantes FC. The audio seems to depict Hernandez Hernandez coming to the conclusion action should be considered against Vinicius Jr, without fully recommending to Hernandez Maeso that he do so.

An RFEF statement on Tuesday said it was “extremely serious” that “audio-visual material” had been “extracted” and said it hoped “a response will be found as soon as possible to clarify responsibilities”.

It said “necessary measures will be taken to ensure the security of all communications” and described the leaked audio as “totally professional and private”.

The RFEF also said it was conducting its own “internal investigation”, as well as filing a complaint with the Guardia Civil, one of Spain’s two national police forces.

The three big VAR calls in Real Madrid vs Almeria

The first controversial decision came after a cross into the Almeria area, which went out for a goal kick. In the audio released afterwards by the RFEF, Hernandez Hernandez told Hernandez Maeso: “I am going to recommend an on-field review to consider a possible penalty for handball by an Almeria defender.”

Hernandez Maeso went along with the recommendation, and Jude Bellingham converted the penalty to halve Madrid’s deficit at 2-1.

Next, a counter-attack by the visitors, started after Dion Lopy pushed past Bellingham near the halfway line, was finished by Sergio Arribas, putting bottom-of-the-table Almeria 3-1 up. Hernandez Hernandez again intervened to tell his colleague Hernandez Maeso: “I’m going to recommend you look at a possible foul in the move to the goal. I’ll show you the contact, it’s in the same phase of attack.”

Lopy was penalised for fouling Bellingham, and Madrid remained only one goal behind.

The third incident was when Vinicius Jr converted a cross to make it 2-2, with Hernandez Maeso immediately disallowing the goal for a handball by the Brazilian. “I’m going to show you: it hits him on the right shoulder, OK?,” says Hernandez Hernandez.

Again, Hernandez Maeso reversed his decision.

All three calls were very debatable — and have indeed been much debated.

Some pundits and fans saw a push by Madrid striker Joselu contributing to the handball for the penalty. The Lopy foul on Bellingham was maybe the clearest, but Hernandez Maeso had a full view of the incident from close by and did not see a problem in real time.

The most problematic was the Vinicius Jr handball, especially the images used to make the decision to allow the goal. Almeria’s official Twitter account asked why the VAR team had not shown Hernandez Maeso another angle of the incident — one which viewers at home saw as part of the game’s TV broadcast.

Dermot Corrigan

(Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

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