By George Willoughby
VAR is the future, there is no getting away from that. So, why is it being used so sparsely English Football?
VAR was agreed to be available in the FA Cup since the 2017-18 season where a tie between Brighton and Crystal marked its introduction.
What followed in the proceedings rounds was what can only be described as a calamity. Granted, there was an expectation for a few teething problems, but there was so much confusion with a handful of incorrect decisions and even the debacle over the faulty lines.
The Video Assistant Referee was brought into football to try and eliminate mistakes, but it still doesn’t solve the issue that officiating football matches is still very much a subjective process.
But, moving on, VAR is unsurprisingly still causing controversy. The main issue this time is that it is being selectively used for specific games.
The quarter-finals of the FA Cup took place over the weekend, and some highly entertaining football was overshadowed by VAR. There were two incidents deriving from the fixtures; Victor Lindelöf’s overturned red card, and two Manchester City goals that should not have stood.
The difference? As Wolves play their football in the Premier League, VAR was present. Even though they weren’t the beneficiaries of the decision made, the fact that they had use of it is why it is so contentious. Victor Lindelöf was shown a red a card, but the Video Assistant Referee decided to overrule Martin Atkinson’s initial decision resulting in just a yellow card for the Swedish international.
Obviously, this would have complications for Manchester United as the defender would have to serve a suspension.The decision getting overturned, although some have questioned even if it should have, wasn’t the problem. Swansea City’s match against Manchester City is where the issue lies, as The Swans should have been in the hat for the semi-finals. An inspired first-half performance saw Graham Potter’s men race out to a 2-0 lead over the champions, but their efforts were in sadly in vein.
With the score at 2-1 for the home side, Raheem Sterling went down in the area after a fair challenge from Cameron Carter-Vickers. Penalty given, and Sergio Agüero needed the back leg of keeper of Kristoffer Nordfeldt to convert from the spot. In the 88th minute, Bernado Silva crosses the ball into an offside Agüero who headed home to clinch the victory.
So, these were two goals which would not have been allowed if VAR was at the game. It exacerbates the skepticism that is already around the use of the Video Assistant Referee, as for how can there be any consistency if it isn’t being used in every game? The ill-advised decision not to have it at the Liberty has subsequently resulted in Swansea being knocked out of the competition.
Fans, managers and players alike are still trying to figure out when and why VAR is used in certain situations. The most ironic thing is that there have been times where VAR has stepped in needlessly and given the wrong decision.
The events that unfolded in the Swansea and Manchester City game made a mockery of the whole system, as for how can you bring this new technology into English football permanently when it is under such constant and justifiable scrutiny?