I was a fan of VAR - but you can see why everyone is losing faith
Two years ago I wrote a piece in full support of the introduction of VAR in the Premier League. At the time, I couldn’t think of any major faults in using the technology and thought it would clear up all unclear and wrong errors that occurred during a game. How wrong I was.
Now, I’m wondering if things should have been left untouched and the final decision left to the referee without the interference of VAR.
Yes, of course there have been many instances of VAR being used to overturn a decision by the referee which was completely wrong and ultimately changed the outcome of the game.
Brought in on the basis of being able to overturn a ‘clear and obvious error’, it would be difficult to say VAR is completely useless and does absolutely nothing that it says on the tin. But In reality, it seems to have caused more controversy than was present before it was brought in to the game.
Two years ago when I wrote my original view of VAR, which you can read here, it was only used in a relatively small number of games - but now its use is much more widespread.
Let's go back to Liverpool v Aston Villa back in November 2019, a game where Liverpool scored one of their many late goals to claim a win.
During the game, Roberto Firmino had a goal ruled out for apparent offside, not originally seen by the linesman. After a consultation with VAR, the goal was disallowed because the Brazilian striker's armpit, that’s right, ARMPIT, was apparently offside. After a more in-depth review of the decision once the game finished, it was even more obvious that he was onside.
This is not the sort of clear and obvious error VAR is supposed to sort out. And this wasn’t the first time a decision has been made based on the apparent armpit being offside.
Other games such as Brighton v Bournemouth, Norwich v Tottenham and Southampton v Crystal Palace, which all took place on the same day, similarly had offsides given by fine and ridiculous margins.
Regular viewers of Match of the Day know there is hardly ever a game that has no controversy about VAR and the decision it has made.
One thing that doesn’t help its case is inconsistency. At times VAR will give an offside by an armpit, but has previously let decisions go when a toe has appeared to be offside. This can't be right.
It’s getting to the point where celebrating a goal can involve no more than a mild cheer, as VAR might have spotted a foul 30 seconds before the goal. Having said that, it has also missed crucial mistakes that have led to goals.
Fabian Schar appeared to have handballed it in the build-up play to a goal scored by Newcastle against Watford at the start of the season, but this was missed. Surely this is what it’s been brought in for?
We don’t get enough referee interaction either. Unlike the World Cup and other competitions such as the Champions League, referees often walked up to the pitchside screen to review decisions themselves to make a choice, but this has not been widely done in the Premier League.
During Crystal Palace’s FA Cup defeat to Derby, referee Michael Oliver actually used the pitchside screen. He overturned his original decision of a yellow card to produce a red. Could this be the start of something in the British game, where referees will finally use this equipment to make a decision for themselves, rather than rely on what is being told by the officials watching from afar?
But at the moment we have fans who are losing faith, managers who are losing faith, and players who are losing faith. This isn’t what we wanted and the game is falling apart. At what point do we get OUR football back?