For some, the Video Assistant Referee, much like the normal referee, is a blindly hated force of evil. And for good reason, too. The useless waste of space called offside on a clearly valid pass. Many see VAR as the end of football as we know it, and FIFA’s way of controlling the game as they wish.
At least, that is how it used to be.
The World Cup in Russia served as a turning point in terms of opinion, will many incensed football fans finally admitting that maybe that goal was offside, or maybe that guy did blatantly slap the ball with his hand in the box, despite it being a decision against their team. VAR offers the football world clarity – for the most part – on situations and decisions previously feared by officials and fans alike. I can remember a time when my Saturday afternoons were tormented by the possibility of my team’s striker being wrongfully accused of an offside – but no longer shall we be shackled by such notions. Well, so long as the decision to overrule the offside meets the conditions of the tedious VAR soundbite catchphrase.
“Clear and Obvious”
Yes, the phrase commentators repeat ad nauseam when VAR makes a controversial decision. “It wasn’t a clear and obvious error” they say. Such a response helps me recall the (in my opinion) wrongful overturning of a Juan Mata goal in last season’s FA Cup fifth round against Huddersfield. An embarrassingly horrific audition of VAR in this country, we saw the mangled lines on the VAR screen not even run parallel with the lines on the pitch. Although the issue was later cleared up with a picture using straight lines – showing Mata’s knee to be marginally offside – it wasn’t an error clear and obvious enough to warrant the use of VAR in the first place.
And yet, despite this damning indictment of VAR, I still advocate its usage. After seeing it used in the World Cup, with the amount of penalties rightfully given because of it (which would have otherwise not been given), I believe it has a valuable place in English football.
Even this season, there have been countless situations where the wrong decision was made – decisions VAR could have easily cleared up. I draw attention to one in particular – Ashley Young’s handball in the box after Shelvey’s free kick, for which no penalty was awarded. Newcastle were 2-0 up at the time and went on to lose the game 3-2. It is safe to say that a penalty (if scored, obviously) would have altered that result. Plus, wouldn’t it have been nice to see United’s struggles exacerbate further this season…
But now that it has been announced that the Premier League will officially be using VAR from next season, such inconsistencies in decision-making are over. For the most part, games should have no controversies anymore – although I am sure that will not happen. At least we will be able to sleep at night knowing offside goals are no more.
I am not sure about everyone else, but I will be welcoming VAR to the Premier League with open arms. I am looking forward to seeing the new relegation-zone-team tactic of falling in the box as much as possible to score some more goals. What a season we will have next year.