FINA Bureau member Andrey Kryukov said the video assistant referee system has "worked perfectly" at the World Championships ©ITG

International Swimming Federation (FINA) Bureau member Andrey Kryukov has lauded the implementation of the video assistant referee (VAR) system in water polo at the World Championships here.

This is the second edition of the World Championships in which VAR has been used following Gwangju 2019.

FINA's Extraordinary Congress in Hangzhou in December 2018 approved several changes to water polo which included introducing VAR "to identify and sanction incidents of brutality and extreme violence" plus goal-line technology.

Kryukov, who serves as the Bureau liaison on the FINA Water Polo Technical Committee, believes that the World Championships in Budapest have offered proof of how technology has advanced the game.

"First of all, we have to highlight that FINA made a great step," Kryukov told insidethegames.

"In front of all challenges of the last years, these championships have been absolutely successful as you can see by how many great achievements and world records that we have.

"Today you see the perfect game of the teams which is showing the best water polo ever.

"We see today how fast they play, because five years ago FINA began the project to change the rules to make the game more attractive, to introduce new technologies.

Water polo's VAR system first featured at the World Championships at Gwangju 2019 ©Getty Images
Water polo's VAR system first featured at the World Championships at Gwangju 2019 ©Getty Images

"Now we see the video assistant referee system worked perfectly, it's absolutely open to everybody and it's also broadcasted.

"Nothing is under the table.

"Up to today we don't have any concerns about refereeing.

"This was the most important work done by FINA to deliver trust to the referee's job and credibility to match officiating, and the introduction of technologies gives us a chance today to eliminate heavy violations which we had in the past.

"Now we don't have it because people respect the rules, the players, and the referees look to the crowd and how the crowd react.

"In Hungary because they are very sophisticated fans here and the top fans in the world for water polo, they immediately react and evaluate referee mistakes, so the best evaluation comes from the crowd.

"When you have the fans who know water polo and the rules, they know how they play, they give you perfect feedback immediately when you see the match.

"This is very important."

Andrey Kryukov said the unstable field of play and underwater contact made water polo
Andrey Kryukov said the unstable field of play and underwater contact made water polo "very difficult" to officiate without the assistance of technology ©Getty Images

Kryukov, who is also secretary general of the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan and a member of the Olympic Council of Asia Rules Committee, explained the importance of technology in a sport notoriously difficult to officiate.

"We developed everything from scratch," he commented.

"Water polo system is very difficult because our field of play is not stable, it has a moving goal, waves, is underwater.

"This is the issue.

"For example, we did an experiment for the referees.

"We invited referees from a team sport, and we asked them to explain the rules and to try and referee the games.

"After two minutes they stopped, they said we cannot, because it is most difficult to referee because we don't see half of what is happening.

"You have to be very professional to predict and understand what has happened underwater."

While acknowledging that further work and improvements are required in the future, the FINA Bureau member believes reforms to the sport have improved water polo as a spectacle.

"There is a lot of work to do in the future because we must improve many aspects of our game, other aspects of games officiating, they’re the next steps," he said.

Andrey Kryukov said that changes to water polo promoted
Andrey Kryukov said that changes to water polo promoted "fast" and "technical" play, such as from men's tournament finalists Spain and Italy ©Getty Images

"But the first steps done and we see the game today how it has been improved.

"Five years ago water polo was 10 to 15 goals per game, today it is minimum 20 or 25, up to 30 goals, and that means the game has become much faster.

"We have done analysis.

"It is 40 per cent faster, 40 per cent more goals, and 40 per cent easier to understand.

"Our problem was a lot of whistles, a lot of refereeing interference in the past, now we have at least 50 per cent less now because we did special statistics and we know how it's affected the game.

"And its result, you see such a beautiful show.

"You see how the players are excited.

"Physicality is a part of our culture - physical wrestling in the water.

"It's not a fight but it's serious contact, we are a full contact sport, but at the same time the technical game has improved.

"You see now in the men's final, Italy against Spain, you couldn't believe that 10 years ago because they are not super powerful.

"They are fast, and they are technical.

"That is a big difference with the past because now we look more to talent, more to the technical game, and this is very important.

"We saw past competitions in the past two and three years it was a big improvement in all of these areas, and we are happy that teams show the best game we have ever seen."

Water polo group matches at the FINA World Championships were held across four host cities in Hungary - Budapest, Debrecen, Sopron and Szeged.

The women's tournament is set to conclude today at the Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Stadium in Budapest, including the final between the United States and Hungary, followed the men's tournament tomorrow.