VAR should be given the chance to shine

Why VAR should be given a chance to shine in English football

The Tipster
By The Tipster
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger Photo: The Sport Review

VAR, otherwise known as ‘video assistant referee’, got its first roll out in English football a few weeks ago in the FA Cup match between Crystal Palace and Brighton.

The game, which ended in a 2-1 win for the Seagulls, did turn out to be showcase for VAR that was expected.

In fact, the system basically had no influence on the game. The one contentious issue that came up, Glen Murray’s winning goal, saw referee Andre Mariner briefly converse with the VAR team through an ear piece.

The conclusion – a legitimate goal and no video replay necessary.

That’s the thing that many don’t understand about VAR as Standard explains – the referee’s interpretation is still crucial to the decision.

The referee is the only one who decides when to use VAR and it is the referee’s call as to whether or not the decision should be changed after review.

It’s a given that managers’ post-match interviews are still going to feature ‘referee-bashing’. That’s why it is so confusing to see so much opposition for the technology: It will work, eventually, and all the subjectivity that we love about football will remain.

Rugby also had teething problems with video replays

In a compelling interview held with Betway Insider on the subject, 1995 Rugby World Cup Final referee Ed Morrison suggested that it is only natural that there is resistance to the use of VAR in football.

Rugby too was sceptical about the use of a video referee, now it feels like an intrinsic part of the game. Morrison also said that football fans should be patient with the technology, and in a couple of years’ time we will think, “What were we worried about?”.

VAR certainly has its detractors, with the Guardian’s Barney Ronay among those who cite that football is ‘too emotional’ for video evidence to be used.

While he may have a point – nobody wants to see Jose Mourinho charging down the touchline demanding a review every time a player takes a tumble in the box – the rules stated by FIFA for VAR’s use suggest that it should be used sparingly.

VAR still has some wrinkles to iron out

VAR is not yet perfect. There was the incident of Willian’s yellow card for a ‘dive’ in Chelsea’s FA Cup tie against Norwich.

On watching a replay in slow-motion, it became clear that the Brazilian may not have dived after all. However, the VAR referee Mike Jones, watching in real time, decided there was no clear and obvious error by the referee. The card stood.

A day later, VAR was shown at its best when Kelechi Iheanacho had a goal awarded against Fleetwood after it was originally called offside.

The thing is, there is always going to be some human error involved in football regardless of whether VAR is used or not. Even with replays it can be hard to tell if a player ‘meant’ to handle a ball or took a dive in the box.

VAR has not been designed to deliver perfection, but rather to help the referee with some important decisions.

In these times of crazy, nine-figure football transfers, it should be remembered that decisions on the pitch have real impact beyond the players.

A misinterpreted judgement can be enough to send a team into relegation, potentially costing the jobs of normal people working at the club.

VAR may not yet be perfect, and it may never be, but given the chance it should be an integral, yet unobtrusive, part of the game.

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