Debate: Video Assistant Referees, a step too VAR?

By Mark Wyatt

Frank Lampard. South Africa. 2010 World Cup.

We all know the story as that day referee Jorge Larrionda made a decision that altered the face of English football forever.

It was in that moment that English football fans decided that never again would they be subject to a decision that could’ve been avoided with the right technology in place.

It took a year or two but eventually goal-line technology has earthed its way into the modern game and its use has been seamless.

Referees receive a small vibration on their wrist to let them know if a ball has crossed the line or not and a decision can be instantly corrected or upheld in seconds.

But the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (the newest in high-end technology to help referees) has been a source of constant controversy since its first official use one month ago in the FA Cup 3rd Round.

Known globally by its acronym VAR, the technology allows officials to pause a match and review crucial moments on TV screens to make better decisions.

It’s a well-intentioned introduction into modern football and it’s made brief cameos in the both the FA Cup and in the Carabao Cup where it’s unfortunately gained a reputation of frequently slowing down match time and causing confusion for spectators and managers alike.

There’s no doubt that the technology will help the game and it can be an excellent aid to referees in the most crucial moments of a match, if we change the way it’s used.

Liverpool’s home tie against West Brom last month was dominated by VAR decisions. The most memorable (for all the wrong reasons) was when it took Craig Pawson 2 minutes and 23 seconds to award Mo Salah a penalty whilst a crowd of 53,000 sat in silence to wait for the decision.

The same game saw two other decisions, both correct, take similar lengths of time to decide upon as the famous Anfield stadium fell quiet.

The easy argument to solve this is that the technology is still in its infancy in English football and therefore there’s lots of time to fix things before it’s implemented fully across the leagues.

But the technology isn’t what’s going wrong it’s how it’s being implemented into the real world that has proved the biggest failure.

Football is only about two things, the club and the fans. The most important thing to do is to create an environment like that in tennis or rugby where video assistants are built into the overall fan experience.

Fans can feel the excitement of a decision live as it’s happening on screens whilst the officials can do their job without the pressure of a full stadium staring at them.

With the astronomical amounts of money now involved in football, joint with the dizzying glitz and glamour of the Premier League, it can be very easy to forget the humble roots that football is based upon.

The next time that the heads of English football meet to discuss VAR they should remember that fans are the most important part of any team and their needs should be those first addressed.

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