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  • Writer's pictureLuke Powell

Things becoming toxic between VAR and Premier League

Following the Athletic’s research into fans’ views on VAR, we explore Video Assistant Refereeing - AGAIN...

Managers are quick to change their tune, with with feelings and emotions towards VAR proving different to when it had not cost them.

This was what the Premier League voted for, but if we got rid of the system surely we’d be going backwards? Following games, fans would find themselves asking ‘but what if there was VAR?’ - if video assistant refereeing were to be removed.

Whether football is better off or more enjoyable with or without VAR is a subjective matter, and the experiences of those situated inside football grounds is extremely different to fans watching on a TV or mobile screen. It’s evident that change is required for the sake of the game moving forward.

Back before VAR, decisions just had to be accepted. Get on with it... And, Spurs’ Australian boss Postecglou has suggested we should continue to do this. “The way the game’s going, I don’t like it.” Adding: “I just want the game to be played.”

Just over a month ago, ‘big Ange’ as they call him had no concerns or complaints as his Spurs side reaped the benefits of questionable decisions against fellow title-chasers Liverpool. Although, the boss was honest in admitting he’s had decisions go his way. Likewise, North- London rival Mikel Arteta had not called for everyone to come together or for joined those asking for change following this eventful game, but has now, after he feels his team have succumbed to wrongdoing by officials’ decisions against Newcastle last Saturday.

The FA have since written to Arteta and Arsenal seeking their observations. Stephen Warnock offered his rationale following the Gunners’ clash with Newcastle, and for many hit the nail on the head with his thoughts.

It’s not just every weekend anymore, each Premier League game seems to have a cluster of VAR talking points with regular consultations occurring regarding decisions made which dominate post-match discussion amongst experts, the media, and fans - as apposed to tactical analysis or discussions about the game and player performances.

However, it’s the media’s duty to address its flaws, and after all it provides wide debate and discussion.

Once again, it’s not the technology that’s failing, it’s the competence and skill level of the referees which deserves the spotlight. Those controlling the video assistant refereeing come into question over decisions on a regular occurrence, as those involved with the games and fans search for consistency.

Following the clanger which saw Liverpool forward Luis Diaz’s goal wrongly ruled-out against Spurs, Henry Winter proposed six changes he’d like to see made to VAR moving forward. Yet, since then we’ve been supplied with more controversy, apologies from PGMOL, and scrutiny rises of referees and VAR by each match that occurs.

Sport- that’s why we love it. Drama, theatre and entertainment - we’re not short of that in England’s top-flight league.

However, there’s a problem...

There are concerns for the future of the game and how many people would wish to become a referee. I’ll let your imagination decide the consequences and what football could look like without officials in the future.

With criticism on a mass and referee’s performances overshadowing those kicking the ball around, it’s not hard to understand why no one would venture into such a career.

Referees have been made celebrities of the sport and poor treatment towards them can be seen at grassroots level, let alone at the highest standard. However, with officials being paid handsome sums and salaries to take charge of games at this level where there are high expectations, if those are not met then, there is a right for criticism - like with any profession.

VAR intercepts when there have been ‘clear and obvious’ mistakes made. But, what do we define as ‘clear and obvious’.

Diogo Jota was wrongly yellow carded at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium before receiving a red card moments later. The red card was on him - Jota deserved his second yellow - but was his first booking not a ‘clear and obvious’ error?

VAR is in place to cut out mistakes, and bring about the fairest result possible. However, with restrictions on when it can get involved in on-field decisions, this cannot fully be achieved. Decisions like this affected the result of a game, and surely this needs to be looked at...

As found on UEFA’s website: “The Video Assistant Referee will only intervene when they have the evidence for a clear and obvious mistake in four match-changing situations: goals and offences leading up to a goal, penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty, direct red card incidents, and mistaken identity.”

There are certainly many ‘match-changing’ situations throughout games which VAR is restricted to intervening with.

There have been calls for time-limits to be put in place for decisions. But, wouldn’t this defy the whole objective of VAR? As if there isn’t enough pressure already on officials to arrive at the correct decisions through applying the laws of the game, and would it not be preferred for referees to take their time and come to the correct decision.

However, games are taking longer and fan experience of VAR could be improved. Whether having referees mid’d up would improve this is another debate. That could cause unnecessary tensions within our football grounds and lead to more hostile environments, but sitting in silence waiting to see if you can celebrate again is extremely frustrating for the majority...

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