The Bottom Line On... VAR
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Is VAR a much needed technology or is it completely ruining the game? Our resident football writers Scott Newby and Neil Tully give their view.
VAR - The Case Against
Because it’s shit. Case Closed.
Okay, I will expand a little on this viewpoint. I could write for days about the mistakes VAR has made, especially since the return of football post lockdown. As a football purist, I’ll level with you - I was against VAR before it was even introduced. I am not anti-progress and certainly not anti-technology, although I am acutely aware of the negative influence technological advancements can have on our society
To prove my point regarding technology - I was supportive of goal-line technology being introduced and believe it has been a great addition.
In my opinion, there are two reasons why goal-line technology works and VAR doesn’t. Firstly, the decision-making process is quick and does not impact on the enjoyment of the game. Secondly, it is absolute – either the ball crosses the line, or it doesn’t. There is no subjectivity. The same cannot be said for VAR. Ten people can watch the same penalty incident one hundred times, from every angle conceivable, and still not all agree on whether it should be a penalty or not. Or tight offside decisions, when a goal is chalked off because a player’s armpit or toenail was deemed offside 45 seconds before the ball entered the net. These decisions even with VAR cannot guarantee accuracy, so what is the point?
Maybe not the point, but the reason is very clear - Money. Football has never been more about wealth and commercialisation as it is today. Business first, entertainment second (at best). The introduction of VAR is symptomatic of the world we live in, where there is a desire for things to be black or white, or right or wrong. Surely some of life’s greatest pleasures come from the area of ‘grey’, the differing opinions, and most of all for just living in the moment and enjoying something for what it is, warts and all.
The Bottom Line is…in the current climate, more than ever, we should savour the things in life that give us joy; the things that truly make us feel things in moments of spontaneity. Football is for the fans, a form of escapism and something that should be enjoyed in the moment. Not 3 minutes later.
VAR - The Case For
In the 87thminute, Kim Young-gwon collected a loose ball, finished it sweetly and peeled away in celebration. South Korea were going through to the World Cup knockout round and reigning champions Germany were going home. Then the assistant flagged for offside. Thankfully, VAR intervened and brilliantly proved that Kim was onside as he had been played in by a stray German touch. The goal stood. Football and technology had danced perfectly. South Korea were not disastrously robbed of a famous victory. The assistant’s mistake was perfectly understandable - his visibility was poor, but VAR’s vision is 20:20.
In Russia in 2018, when VAR made its big stage debut, 455 incidents were checked, and a study found that 99.35% were accurate in their outcome. 81% of fans reported being happy with the technology. VAR’S job is not to make 100% correct decisions. This is impossible. Even after replays of some collisions, fans can’t agree on a decision. What VAR did in Russia was guarantee that the referee’s most influential decisions were made after using world class technology. You could still disagree with him, but at least be reassured he had made an informed decision.
At the World Cup, VAR was used for penalty decisions, goals decisions and unseen red card offences. Referees ran pitchside, had a look, and went back to give their decision. They averaged 86.5 seconds to make the call. A small price to pay for South Korea, for example. There were no faceless refs in distant cities. There were no ludicrous calls to implement it when a ‘foul’ occurred 80 yards from goal. As fans, we can’t have it both ways, demanding a free-flowing game one minute, calling VAR a disgrace the next, when one of your players got fouled early on in a build-up.
VAR has exposed lack of clarity in football’s rules, namely offside and handball, as well as what seems to be a pathological inconsistency in English referees. Nobody wants to see goals ruled out because an ankle crossed a digitally drawn line. Surely with our new technology offside should be changed to – ‘The goal stands if any part of the attacking player is ONSIDE.’ The handball rule needs to be simplified. If that means awarding a penalty any time the ball hits a hand, so be it. VAR should never be used for incidents outside the box, other than red card offences.
The bottom line is that in years to come we will wonder what we did without it. The Premier League is seemingly doing its best to complicate it, but hopefully this is a teething problem. We can’t go back to the days where South Korea would be going home so unfairly.
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