It wasn’t long ago when the entire world of football was calling for VAR (Video Assistant Referee) to be introduced to the game. People were referring to how well it works in other sports, and the reduction of the number of errors being made by officials. Yet, as we start the new season, VAR seems to have taken the decision making process from one extreme to another, with criticisms intensifying with each affected game.
Last weekend, for example, saw more controversy surrounding the use of VAR for penalty decisions. Joel Ward (Crystal Palace), Erik Dier (Tottenham) and Neal Maupay (Brighton) all gave away controversial penalties for handball, bringing even more negative attention to an already topical situation. The latter’s handball, was a correct decision, but the penalty was taken after the final whistle. This brings attention to the fact that the match officials no longer make decisions during games, and leave it up to VAR to make it for them. For all I care, the game was over, and that’s that. Never before has a goal been scored after the final whistle.
As for Ward and Dier…what are the the officials thinking. The decisions being made are outrageous. It seems as though no matter the circumstance, if the ball hits the arm, then it’s a penalty. Just imagine if we lived in a world without football, and someone pitched the way football is played now to a bunch of investors.
“So, I have this idea for a new game…”
“OK, go on…”
“Well, we play in these big arenas, with no fans, and we play games every few days. There are 11 players on each side, a big pitch, round ball, and goals at both ends.”
“Sounds ok-ish… Is there more?”
“Yeah! There are some referees, but they don’t actually make any decisions, and when they do need to make a decision, they use this thing called VAR. They watch a video, and discuss with other referees who are sitting in a van, and decide what to do.”
“That will be interesting to listen to, and should be quite quick, and accurate.”
“No, you can’t listen to it. It will take a long time. Yeah…accurate (looks away).”
“So, the idea is to put the ball in the net, so, what is the most effective way to do that?”
“Great question. You work the ball into an area, called the penalty box, and then the players try to…”
“Kick or head into the goal?”
“Not quite. Well the players try to head or kick the ball really hard at the opposition players from close range, hoping it will hit someone’s hand. Then the (worthless) officials will give a penalty, which is easier to score from…”
How To Solve The Issue?
Firstly, I am going to say something that I have never said before… we should learn from the American MLS. During the recent tournament played in America, the conversations between the officials during VAR stoppages were played out for the public to hear. That would at least help fans understand the thinking behind decisions. For example, during Brighton vs Man Utd, there was a penalty given to Brighton for a foul on Connolly, which I believe was correct. The decision was then overturned, and I, as a football fan, would like to know why.
Secondly, people need to use common sense. The only thing VAR has done so far is show us the stupidity surrounding the running of football. Soon we will need players running around with straitjackets on just to avoid giving away a penalty.
I for one hope that VAR is only used for penalising off the ball incidents that require a yellow or red card, and for goals that were scored when a player is clearly offside. Not the offsides you see given now, in which a players pubic hair was slightly closer to the opposition goal.
Finally, I would like to see referees stop relying on VAR, and just ref the game as they see it. However, the competing teams can be given the opportunity to challenge decisions made by a referee, which is what they do in other sports. The challenges can only be made during major decisions, such as free-kicks in and around the box with a genuine chance of a shot at goal, penalty decisions, and disallowed/allowed goals for offside. Each team can be allowed three incorrect challenges, which will improve the speed of the game, and challenge the honesty of the players themselves. Once you make three incorrect challenges, you have to accept the decisions, and question your own judgement. During challenges, the time will be stopped, so it is not used as a way of killing off the game.
It will be interesting to see the next talking point to happen but one thing is for sure, we have to stick with VAR, but bring it to an acceptable level, something that might be addressed sooner raVAR than later.