We Need To Talk About VAR

| April 7, 2019 | Reply

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VAR = Very Average Refereeing

Next season the Premier League introduces new technology in the form of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), so now there will be no contentious decisions, everyone will be happy and managers bemoaning awful refereeing decisions (in their opinion from the halfway line) on Match of the Day will be a thing of the past.


Sorry folks but I just don’t buy it. You will know from some of my previous articles that I love technology and I embrace it whenever it adds value. I also love football, although some may say that’s a fallacy given the team I’ve been watching live for 50 years!

Why am I so against VAR?

Well first and foremost it’s not really technology! Think about it. All they’re doing is getting another team of officials to sit in a room with a lot of video screens, watch the match, replay anything that looks a bit dubious and then… give their opinion!

It’s not like cricket or tennis, where they truly use technology in the form of Hawkeye, snickometer or ball tracking to arrive at a decision. There’s no human intervention, no opinion, it’s black or white, in or out.

Goal line technology has been great. Remember that? We’ve had it for years now and nobody talks about it anymore. Why? Because the decision is made by a computer. It gets the data, analyses it and sends the decision to the referee’s watch in seconds. Goal/no goal, decision given, games carries on.

I’m happy with that, that’s technology adding value.

But VAR?

How many times since they’ve been trialling VAR have you seen decisions that are still open to debate. Man Utd fans in Paris the other week were the recipients of some Very Average Refereeing. Let’s face it, we’d all be up in arms (pun intended!) if that had been given against our team.

There are countless examples of Messrs Shearer and Wright et al arguing whether a decision was right or wrong, and that’s with dozens of angles, slow motion, stop screen etc. etc.

Going back to cricket and tennis, they have a natural break in play for the decision to be reviewed. But football should be fast-moving, free-flowing, end-to-end action. So, what happens with VAR?

Option 1: they play on until the ball next goes out of play or the on-field referee gives a decision (god forbid!!). That could literally be minutes between the incident to be reviewed and the actual review.

There are a few different scenarios here as well.

Scenario 1: Team A have a shout for a penalty, the referee waves it away, Team B break quickly and score on the counter. Now we’ve got a break in play. VAR says penalty so Team B have the goal ruled out and the penalty awarded against them instead. You think referees and linos get a lot of abuse now! Just wind that up a notch – imagine that happening in a match between two local rivals in an atmosphere that is white-hot already.

Scenario 2Same penalty shout waved away, as the play develops a Team B player lunges in on an opponent and the referee immediately pulls out the red card. Now VAR gets involved for the penalty and says it should have been given. Now Team B have a penalty against them and have lost a player in a passage of play that shouldn’t have been happening. Fair? Double jeopardy?

Option 2: Play is stopped immediately when there is a dubious decision (question – what constitutes dubious and in whose opinion?!). So now the game becomes disjointed and loses any flow. There are untold stoppages. We get 10+ minutes of added on time. It becomes difficult for teams that want to contain and play on the break if every time they win a challenge there’s a danger of VAR calling it back.

How many times will fans put up with VAR interrupting the game and then saying the referee was right anyway!

I’ve got more concerns too!

As if referees and assistants don’t have a hard-enough time already having every decision analysed on MotD, or Super Sunday or Monday Night Football. Now we’re going to send them out on the pitch knowing every decision is being analysed by VAR HQ. Imagine how you’d feel having your boss looking over your shoulder at everything you do. You’d become paranoid, you’d be scared to make a decision and that’s what I can see happening in football.

Referees will either give everything or shy away from giving anything and let the opinion of the VAR officials sort it out.

Also, where do you draw the line? I know there’s meant to be a list of the types of instances that VAR will look at, but even that’s open to interpretation! Now I can see scenarios where teams feel aggrieved that an incident has/hasn’t been looked at compared to other incidents.

Maybe you could use the “three challenges” rule that cricket and tennis operate, but it still breaks the flow of the game. Again, I have concerns with this anyway. What happens in the 89th minute when Team A are one-nil down, they win the ball and launch an attack, only for the captain of Team B to throw down a challenge flag and stop the game?

Do officials make wrong decisions? Yes, of course they do, and we let them know about it from the stands! Although if we take the rose-tinted specs off they probably make less errors than we’d like to think!

Do “wrong” decisions even themselves out over a season? Yes, I think they probably do in my experience (and taking off the blinkers!).

Will VAR improve the game? Not in my opinion.

Yes, I readily admit there are times when looking at a replay might overturn an obviously wrong decision, but in my opinion the cons far out weigh the pros in terms of the actual application of VAR to football.

Please remember these are my views, not necessarily those of The Betting Rant (NOTE FROM MATT HOUGHTON: It very much is my view too!!!), and like everything else in football, it’s all about opinions!

Now I’ve set the cat amongst the pigeons I’m off to watch a few reruns of The Big Match from 1975, when tackles were tackles and not a VAR in sight!


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Category: Betting Advice, Betting Opinion

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