ANALYSIS: Football: VAR: Video Assistant Referee’s continuing controVARsies

Video Assistant Referees (VAR). [PHOTO CREDIT: Sky Sports]
Video Assistant Referees (VAR). [PHOTO CREDIT: Sky Sports]

Are referees lazier today than they have ever been? They must be because we are having more controVARsies instead of less. Implementing the Video Assistant Referee was to help clear up very marginal decisions and clear and obvious errors by referees, but it has surely exacerbated their faults.

The referees have one primary job – to spot fouls and infringements in the game and penalise appropriately but they have become timider in flagging fouls, waiting for VAR [a cabal of referees] to go against the boys’ club. That will hot happen!

VAR is enacting a vanishing act as match referees stop taking the hard decisions and it is thus taking the monkey on thoroughly competent match officials, who are now prepared to take the back seat.

The injustices being perpetrated in the English Premier League are too many to document with VAR officials unable [perhaps unwilling to show up their mates] to help centre referees keep their integrity.

A foul is a foul, no matter where on the pitch it is committed but this does not always hold true for referees. Some fouls are easily whistled outside the box because it does not warrant a penalty.

Take, for instance, Tottenham’s escape from a home defeat by Watford. The Hornets had an obvious penalty obfuscated before they allowed Dele Alli to have a goal-scoring advantage after the ball hit his shoulder. In the circumstances, the assistant referees should have made the right calls – that is why they run the lines, but after they did not, VAR should have come to the rescue, but all VAR shirked that responsibility.

The next day, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane’s supposed equaliser for Liverpool was correctly disallowed after he fortuitously handled the ball – a correct call judged by the law.

Then the often vexatious referee, Mike Dean, then did not call for an obvious tug in the Sheffield United versus Arsenal encounter, when video replays and angles showed he had a perfect view of the foul. VAR backed his decision because they knew he saw the incident and if he did not whistle, then why bother?

If this will continue, then designers of VAR should think of introducing the referee-robot, who will judge according to what they are programmed to do – not act on instinct or fear.

Former EPL referee Howard Webb told FourFourTwo that the biggest challenge for VAR is what constitutes a “clear and obvious.”

But we find ourselves in a situation where clear and obvious to the fans and the watching world is clearly not obvious to the people that are supposedly trained to know better or who should know better!

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