VAR in Football

There is a lot of debate at the moment as V.A.R (‘Video Assistant Referee’ apparently, I thought it was ‘Video Action Replay’ or something like that.) is being introduced into football.

They’ve announced that it will be used in the next world cup and that is making fans debate even more about whether it is a good or bad thing.

Personally I am conflicted.

I’m a Tottenham fan and as such have witnessed some absolute travesties in my time.

I know all too well that right now many non Spurs fans will be able to tell me lots of times in recent days/weeks/months where VAR could have shown a player like Dele Ali was diving, and I agree.

I hate it when he goes down easy and I think he needs to get rid of it from his game.

But I’m referring to things like the ball going a clear meter over the line against Manchester United and ‘because the ref didn’t see it’ we didn’t get the goal.

That kind of decision is soul-destroying, and whilst rare it can have a huge impact on a clubs fortunes.

In this instance the game against Manchester United finished 0-0 and we ended the season in 5th place on 65 points, whilst Arsenal finished 4th on 67 points.

I know you can’t really say that this one disallowed goal cost us 3 points as United might well have ‘played harder’ at 1-0 down and won or at least drew.

But the fact is we were 1-0 up but for a poor refereeing decision, and if that could have been a win, it would have been the 3 points needed to elevate our club into the Champions League spots at least 5 years before we finally managed to achieve the same levels.

It all likely sounds dramatic and silly but I think about that sometimes and look at who left the club, who the club could have signed, and so forth and wonder ‘what if’.

So for me V.A.R will always be a definite benefit to the game. Using it, and goal line technology, we could have seen this and given the goal, allowing the ‘truth’ to out.

I appreciate there may have been a reverse decision that went our way in the season, but equally I’d rather they weren’t given too if it was ‘right’.

I also see that goal line tech mainly solves my specific issue, but my point is just how much one mistake can affect an entire clubs fortunes.

On the flip side, I was at Tottenham vs Rochdale earlier this week and V.A.R was a little bit nuts.

They disallowed a goal but no-one could understand why.

As a fan in the stands I had no idea was going on, there’s no real alert about V.A.R taking place, everyone just stands around whilst the ref looks busy, and the fans start to boo themselves hoarse.

Later in the game there was a foul in the box, I saw it with my own eyes, the referee who was a good deal closer than I was gave it as a free kick outside of the box, we were baffled, but V.A.R was used and a penalty was given instead.

It took ages for them to call it though, I can’t get my had around why – surely you just play and pause the video and you know.

The penalty was set up, the player ran, stopped, then kicked the ball. We cheered…

The ref suddenly called for a replay again, this time I genuinely didn’t know what was going on, people were going mad.

I thought something had happened and the penalty was being retaken, but what happened next was just silly.

The ref decided that because the player stopped on his run up it wasn’t allowed – a fair assessment.

But in the replay seen by fans at home, before the player stopped, other players were in the penalty area, and the goal keeper had left his line – also illegal moves.

So when they replayed to check the penalty they should have seen an illegal move from the other players, an illegal move from the goalkeeper, then an illegal move from the penalty taker – and the penalty should have been retaken.

It seemed odd to me that V.A.R would’ve missed this – they only had to show the penalty being taken again.

It somehow missed 2 mistakes and focused on a third one, affecting the outcome of the Penalty in one way over the other.

The whole point of V.A.R for me was to prevent referees from accidentally, subconsciously, or maliciously affecting the outcome of a game, and yet here we were.

This made me wonder whether V.A.R was a good idea, but I think the real question is whether this system is a good one or not.

It seems limited – one funny thing I was told after the match was that due to snow they painted the lines around the pitch blue, only to find V.A.R couldn’t see blue lines, so they had to paint white over them, which made them an unusual light blue colour.

What the hell kind of lame technology are they trialing that it couldn’t see a blue line?

This tech seems a bit like the ‘least’ they could trial to say it’s a messy tech that wont work.

I worry with football that they like having the chance to have a goal ‘accidentally missed’ by the referee from time to time because they feel it creates discussion and so forth.

I’m not suggesting that they somehow make it happen, or that they encourage anything illegal, not at all.

I think if that were the case we’d all know by now – there are too many people involved for football to be bent in any major way.

Match fixing is being fought hard and tends to happen only in young and rather irrelevant games that will go ‘unnoticed’ by the history books.

People are debating alternative plans to combat the frustrations around V.A.R – like the delays.

Finite calls were one I kept hearing put forward, but it seems like a terrible idea to me.

If they gave a couple of ‘calls’ per game and teams wasted them or even if they just used them in the first half of a match, it would leave them open to all sorts of abuse from the opposition in the second half.

It would be like the moment they know the calls are gone, they’d start chancing their arm and forcing mistakes again.

I’d be even angrier if in the above example, we’d used our 2-3 calls for the game, and we could see the ball had gone in, but we absolutely couldn’t contest it because earlier in the game we’d made multiple calls about free kick opportunities or something.

I think what they could do is add in smaller bits like the goal line technology, to remove the reliance on V.A.R but still have it for moments when only a replay would do.

They could call offside with cameras going up and down the pitch.

They could use laser lines on the pitch too.

I’ve seen things in basket ball that track players on an iPad with little dots.

Maybe it uses a chip in their clothes or something, but it calls where they are on the pitch at any given time, so if a player was offside it’d know with precision.

Eliminating incorrect offside calls and incorrect goal line calls only leaves fouls which would be dependent on V.A.R.

I think that if they’re heavy-handed with it at the start, they will find that players limit their fouls, shirt pulling, dives and so forth, if they know that the game will be affected by it.

Ultimately I think the technology is a good idea, it needs to go faster, but it will not be a problem if both sides avoid cheating and so forth.

In the Tottenham vs Rochdale game I can hold my hands up and say that if Spurs didn’t have a few players who had reputations for diving at the moment, then perhaps they wouldn’t have needed V.A.R for the penalty decision.

If the penalty taker hadn’t feinted then the penalty wouldn’t have been replayed and then disallowed.

I think the team will know better for next time, and any savvy players from other clubs will be watching.

What would you do to improve V.A.R?
If it helps England reach a further point in the world cup would we then like it more?

Let me know your thoughts, I feel like I’m ‘for’ it but it was frustrating watching it take that long to get a decision when Sky can do it instantly on TV every game without fail.

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