IF you have ever had the privilege of visiting the city of Cologne, you will know it is a warm-hearted place with a generosity of spirit. By no means the most architecturally splendid city in Europe due to the need to rebuild cheaply and quickly in the immediate post-war years, the vast and stunning cathedral makes up for a lot.

The cathedral side of the Rhine is where the action is to be found in Cologne. In fact I’ve often heard it said, half jokingly, that to be considered a true Kolner you simply can’t hail from the other less glamorous bank of the river.

However, arguably the most talked about place in German football this season has been across the bridge from the “Dom” in the district of Deutz. When commentators speak of the “Kolner Keller” (Cologne basement), no one needs to be told that they are referring to VAR central.

By way of background, Germany has been in the video assistance game longer than most. A full season of detailed off-line testing, with off-duty referees playing the hypothetical role of VAR, was followed by a decision to implement the real thing in every Bundesliga game this term.

It is worth restating the areas where VAR can come into play: around the scoring of a goal (off-side, foul, etc), a penalty award, a straight red card or in a case of mistaken identity.

Last week, IFAB gave the green light to video referees in this summer’s Fifa World Cup in Russia. It seems to me, rather than analyse the fledgling use of VAR in England, where they are only just dabbling and hysteria reigns, it is more instructive to assess it in a country that has properly put in the preparatory work. The week-in, week-out use of any innovation tells us a lot.

There were, as you might expect, teething problems in the Bundesliga and the German FA (DFB) parted ways with VAR project manager Hellmut Krug in November. VAR undoubtedly gave life to new controversies. Dortmund scored against Koln after referee Patrick Ittrich had blown for half time, only to be overruled by the basement. Freiburg’s gifted young Turkish defender Caglar Soyuncu was erroneously shown a red card for handball against Stuttgart after VAR review.

But what rarely gets mentioned is how often the intervention by the video official corrects an injustice. Once you see that regularly, it is hard not to pine for it when watching a league or game that doesn’t have VAR at its disposal. (Exhibit A, Jan Vertonghen’s foul in the box on Douglas Costa in Wednesday’s Champions League epic between Spurs and Juventus.)

The German winter break in late December and early January allowed for an appraisal. For the most part it was positive and for those dead against the concept on the grounds that it slows down the game, this statistic really jumped out of the page. On average only 0.3 times per game was there a recommendation from the VAR to overturn an on pitch decision. So much for ruining the flow of the game. I would wager that there are many more significant stoppages in a game for injuries.

Still, tweaks were called for. The feeling within DFB circles was that too many decisions were being made in the “Kolner Keller” and referees were advised to make use of the in-stadium monitor to view key incidents themselves, especially penalty decisions. The new project manager, Lutz-Michael Frohlich, also urged video assistants “not to work like detectives” with the implication that some were overreaching and making use of slow motion too much.

There have been fewer controversies in the second half of the season. Last week was an excellent advert for the project.

Take Hamburg, flirting with their first relegation from the Bundesliga and under pressure in every game, against fellow strugglers, Mainz. Filip Kostic scored after making a run from a clearly off-side position. He finished his chance, the celebration music was played in the stadium but then the VAR said no, thankfully! It finished 0-0.

An hour or so later, Hannover’s Chilean, Miiko Albornoz, plunged to the ground inside the Frankfurt box and won a penalty for his team, conning referee Soren Storks. However VAR Gunter Perl, in accordance with the winter instructions, suggested Storks walk to the TV and have a look. He immediately spotted the dive, reversed his previous penalty award and booked Albornoz for simulation. This one, I particularly liked as a booking against the team sinned against is far more appropriate than a retrospective ban.

The following day, the basement dwellers in more ways than one, Koln, would have been two up against Stuttgart without VAR. Japanese international Yuya Osako had his goal annulled after video evidence showed he had illegally taken the ball away from goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler. Koln ended up losing 3-2 in a crunch game.

The anti-VAR faction will point to flaws in the system. Marco Reus could have been off-side when he received a pass from Mo Dahoud before netting the equaliser in Dortmund’s 1-1 draw away to Leipzig. But there was no definitive angle and hence no way to be sure the original decision was wrong. The goal stood.

Let’s get one thing straight. VAR is not going to give us perfection. But it makes the game fairer and that is the whole point of the exercise. Granted, it is frustrating to be a fan in a stadium when the referee has his finger on his ear and you don’t know what is going on. Communication is something that must be worked on and already there is an openness to this.

I know many VAR sceptics in Germany and other countries such as Italy, the USA and Australia, that are part of this worldwide trial. It is an entirely honourable position but I believe the more you see it in action, the more you realise it helps referees get the major decisions right. Why would we not want such an outcome?

World Cup officials should all be paying regular visits to the “Kolner Keller” between now and June.