How VAR can it go?

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Will VAR now in full effect in many leagues including the Premier League as well as cup competitions like the Champions League, it is worth discussing whether it is improving or ruining our beloved game.

The reason behind VAR

After bringing in goal line technology which admittedly is a major improvement in football to bring fairness to the game, VAR gained huge popularity in terms of its concept.

Nobody wants to lose due to a goal that was offside, or be denied a penalty because of a poor decision from the referee. This is why the idea of VAR was being disucssed and eventually brought in.

Stockley Park, the hub for VAR where the decisions are made
Stockley Park, the review centre for VAR

With the addition of VAR, big in game decisions such as red card offenses, offside goals, and penalties can be officially reviewed by a team in a centre with multiple camera angles and the ability to look at the offense in slow motion.

However, as straight forward as it should be, this isn’t the case and is in a very grey area for the way it is being used.

So how is VAR ruining football?

Although overturning incorrect decisions is a great idea and makes the game more fair, it sure does have its flaws. With its use over the past few years, it has drawn major criticism from players, managers, pundits as well as fans.

One example of why people are frustrated with the system is the offside decisions. The use of the lines to examine if an attacker is in an offside decision are dubious as for one they are relatively thick, which can be a difference to being a millimetre onside to a millimetre offside. We have seen players given offside by their toenails and armits, its pretty ridiculous. For clear and obvious offsides its great, but when the use of lines are inconsistent, it can be very frustrating.

Liverpool's Firmino was given offside for his armpit
Liverpool’s Firmino was given offside for his armpit

Not to mention that it takes the fun and excitement out of the game for fans. When your team score, you look for the offside flag and if its down, you can celebrate. VAR is preventing the raw emotion in these moments by creating suspense amongst everybody in the stadium. Growing up without VAR, football is a very much win some, lose some decisions. It makes the game.

In terms of fouls for penalties or red cards, it changes the perspective of the matchday officials. As it states, if there is a ‘CLEAR AND OBVIOUS ERROR’ from the referee, the decision will be either overturned by the VAR team, or the ref can have another look.

Lets start with the ‘clear and obvious error’, which is dependent on opinion and personal judgement rather than true facts like on or offside. As you are most likely aware from the exposure to VAR, when the show the replay in slow motion, it can make a very clean tackle look like a foul.

In regard to the ref being given a look, this has potential to work well because a referee can identify himself if he has made a mistake which happens. However, when the VAR team are asking the ref to have a second look, it puts doubt into the referees mind that he has made a mistake and adds pressure to make that decision for a second time. It’s like a unnecessary bias.

These issues result in fans questioning whether VAR is really worth the hassle.

How could VAR be changed to be great?

For offside, as mentioned the clear and obvious offsides can be rectified which works. However the millimetre decisions need to be resolved. What ever happened to the benefit of the doubt to the striker? If it comes to these extremely tight calls which can be given either way, they should stick with this old school rule which may be harder to criticise in game speed.

For red cards and penalties, I personally believe that the review should be in game speed and should only be looked at by the referee if he feels unsure. The added pressure of the VAR team can be removed.

Alternatively, rather than have a clear and obvious error to overturn a decision, it should involve going back to the textbook and saying was it a foul/red card, yes or no? It shouldn’t be a dubious decision just because it wasn’t a clear and obvious mistake from the referee.

Summary of VAR

Overall, the concept of VAR is fantastic but its current use is not well established and their is a lot of work to do to perfect its use. One thing we know for sure is that VAR is here to stay whether we like it or not. Too much money has already been spent during its roleout, so a U-turn regarding its use is extremely unlikely.

There are many ways that VAR can be improved as seen in the examples discussed, albeit others may disagree. Others may have better, more efficient ways of improving VAR but the point here is that it can be improved.

We hope that they manage to perfect the system and it improves the game, but as it stands, its not cutting it. It has more flaws than benefits in my opinion.

Published by Brentton Barrett

a BSc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry, MSc in Pharmaclogy and currenly I am entering the final year of my PhD in Cardiovascular Pharmacology. With science aside, I have always enjoyed writing, so why not write about my alternate passion; sport! BleachSport is my blog which allows me to put science to one side, and express my ideas with those around the world who share the same sporting interests. Born and raised in London, UK with a particular love for football/soccer and the NBA. I am always up for discussions or debates on various sporting topics so if you want to propose a topic or ask something directly, do not hesitate.

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