We’ve seen it all season long, but since the Premier League resumed last month there has been even more talk about the issues with VAR.
From the first game back, when Sheffield United had a goal not given despite the ball clearly crossing the line, there has been controversy after controversy across Europe with the new digital refereeing system.
As many will surely point out, it’s not VAR that’s the issue; it’s the officials in charge of VAR making the decisions.
We’ve seen a startling amount of inconsistency from officials, from red cards, to penalties to handballs.
Lets start with Eddie Nketiah. The young English forward came on as a substitute for Arsenal against Leicester and lasted just under 2 minutes before seeing red for a dangerous tackle. This decision itself isn’t the issue, it’s the decisions that follow it that cause problems. James Tarkowski went into a challenge against Jarrod Bowen with his studs showing and caught the winger on the thigh. The referee gave a yellow card. When Arsenal took on Liverpool, Trent Alexander-Arnold made the exact same challenge as Nketiah. 50/50 that he missed and got the player with extreme force instead, albeit accidental. VAR reviewed that challenge and didn’t even give the England international a yellow card.
Another occasion of VAR completely contradicting itself includes the two Manchester teams. Manchester United traveled to Villa Park and secured a victory, in part thanks to a penalty earned by Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese midfielder dragged the ball away from Villa defender Kourtney Hause and turned his back to the defender. His momentum saw him step on the leg of the defender and in turn go down. VAR, after several minutes of checks, awarded the penalty. In Manchester City’s win over Bournemouth though, Gabriel Jesus ran through in the box and mid-stride accidentally stepped on defender Steve Cook’s leg and went down. Penalty given by the referee, but then VAR reared it’s ugly head and overruled the decision. Why? What’s the difference between the two incidents? Either they’re both penalties or they’re both not. How is it possible to come to the decision that they result in different outcomes?
While the referees are in charge, there will be errors. That’s part of football. The introduction of VAR was billed as the end of these errors with the use of technology. It hasn’t helped. Things like offside have improved, because despite whether people like the dotted lines or not – you’re either offside or you’re not. There’s no subjectivity to it. It’s a yes or no thing.
That’s how VAR needs to be used. Situations where it’s a yes or a no. Where there can be no debates. There’s no real difference right now between the errors referees were making before, except for the song and dance made about how VAR would cut errors out of the game.
If you want to use VAR though, the only option is to give the referee on the field full control. Let him use the screen by the side of the pitch to check any decisions he isn’t sure of instead of being told by someone else. You can have the person in the office at Stockley Park to make checks during the game as requested by the on-field referee. Other than that, just stay out of it.
As it stands, VAR is causing more problems than it’s solving and is proving to be a massive inconvenience to the teams involved in games. It’s a huge problem and the Premier League need to find a way to make it work better than it currently does before the new season begins.