In the immortal words of Heath Ledger’s Joker, ‘Here. We. Go.’
VAR, truly the Brexit of British football. I can already feel my two readers being divided on the issue. Nobody can sit on the fence with VAR; like Marmite, glee clubs, or Piers Morgan, it provokes strong emotions.
Personally, I think we should give it a chance. Now, before you close this page in a rage because I am delusional enough to think VAR is a good thing, I should stress that even I think it has had a lot of nightmare moments this season. But why has video technology that’s worked so well in other football leagues around the world been so poorly implemented in the UK? At times it’s been a downright shitshow, and I am struggling to understand why.
I have three reasons as to why VAR has had such a rocky start in the Premier League (though be warned: I have got my tin foil hat on for some of this.)
- Officials are already crap, so they obviously can’t operate technology;
- It is being purposely tanked because the Premier League didn’t really want it and bowed to pressure (small tin foil hat moment);
- It is corrupt in an already corrupt league, which is determined to protect the traditional big six (huge tin foil hat moment).
You might be reading this and nodding along, as even the tin foil hat moments seem plausible. We have seen the softest of VAR decisions given to the Man Citys and Chelseas of the league, but similar decisions for the Southamptons or Watfords have been dismissed by VAR. When it comes to rumours of corruption in the Premier League, I’m torn. Yes, we have all long suspected the top six of being given preferential treatment on and off the football pitch for years, and I feel that everyone who doesn’t support one of those teams has a story about how a referee once completely screwed them over, while the people who are fans of the Big Six have no idea why the rest of us are pissed off. But would even the Premier League be so brazen as to let this favouritism seep into VAR? Surely not. But I have to say, seeing the West Ham goal that was disallowed against Chelsea, and the United goal against Brighton that wasn’t even reviewed, I do wonder… After all, who wants to see Wolves and Sheffield United in Europe when you could have your money-makers there, like Chelsea and United?
Okay, okay. I’m taking the tin foil hat off, as I feel that the main reason why VAR has had some catastrophic moments this season is simple. It’s not because it was being purposely tanked, but because match officials are already so crap, why did we think this technology would make them any better? In the words of my brother, ‘The standard of refereeing is now so bad that I wouldn’t trust them with a whistle, let alone a camera.”
For years, the standard has being getting worse and worse. Glaring mistakes were happening on a weekly basis, and all forms of commentary and analysis concentrated not on the football itself, but the mistakes that the refs had been making. Now we have given the same idiots who were making those mistakes a bunch of cameras and told them to get on with micro-managing every aspect of the game.
“But Mike, how can you still be for VAR if you think the idiots shouldn’t be trusted!?” you exclaim. Well, I believe that video technology is part of the natural progression of the game, but rules need to change to accommodate it, as the two main gripes against VAR are:
- The fans in the ground have no idea what’s happening;
- Getting out rulers and drawing lines on a screen, when IT IS MEANT TO BE A CLEAR AND OBVIOUS ERROR.
These two issues can be easily solved. Firstly, by showing the VAR decision being made on the screens in grounds (Liverpool and United: you’d better get some screens). This would be a quick and easy fix, and would help fans in the stadium understand why a decision has been made. The discussion between the referee and the video assistant could also be played over the speakers.
The second problem is a more challenging one, but it could be fixed by the VAR team simply using VAR how it was designed to be used, which is for clear and obvious errors, not to try and ascertain if a stud was half a millimeter offside.
VAR can work in football, I truly believe that, but it needs change. The current setup does not work. I’ll know when it does start working, though, because my mate Russ in our Whatsapp group chat (titled Road to the Champions League – we are all Wolves fans after all) changes his mind and gets on board with VAR. That’s when I’ll know it has finally been a success and we can stop calling him a dinosaur (sorry Russ).