3 reasons why EPL should stop its experiment with VAR | Premier League 2019-20
- After a less than stellar debut season, the Premier League should discontinue its use of VAR.
Owing to numerous human errors made by referees that have negatively impacted the outcomes of major games in the past, there were concerted efforts to use technology to aid match officials in their on-field decisions.
The first major change was the introduction of goal-line technology and some years later, the game's governing body announced the test-running of a fresh innovation that would further help referees make the right decision.
VAR was soon announced and after several trials in different countries, it was included in the governing laws of the game in 2018, with the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2019 the first major international tournament to apply it.
VAR - for the few who might have no idea - simply means Video Assistant Referee and he/she is also a sanctioned match official whose job it is to review decisions made by the on-field referee with the aid of a team and several different camera angles.
The technology aims to give second perspectives to incidents that might have been missed by the match referee at first glance and there are only four instances which can be reviewed:
i. Goal/No Goal if there was an infringement in the buildup
ii. Red card incidents
iii. Mistaken identity in the issuance of cards
iv. Penalty/No Penalty
Several major leagues in the world were quick to embrace its adoption including the Bundesliga and LaLiga but the English Premier League was one of the few who refrained from doing so.
After much anticipation, the Premier League finally announced the use of VAR at the start of the 2019-20 season, with some differences in its implementation.
However, with the season drawing to an end, fans are still divided over the success of the technology. While many sections believe that it has been beneficial, others have not been impressed with its debut season in the league.
In the interest of the Premier League, it would be best for the use of VAR to be annulled and here, we shall be highlighting three reasons why the technology should be scrapped in the English top-flight.
#3 There have been too many inconsistencies
The main reason why VAR was introduced was to reduce errors in the game but it is pertinent to note that the technology cannot make a decision for itself and is still subject to human interpretation.
In essence, despite VAR, the referees still need to have a firm grasp of the rules of the game for correct decisions to be made but this has not been the case with the Premier League officials.
There have been way too many inconsistencies in the judgement for similar offences that makes the VAR situation in the English game quite laughable.
One of the major rules implemented by IFAB in the last year was the enforcement of the encroachment in the area and the goalkeeper stepping off his line during penalties and whereas it was largely overlooked in the past, the last year has seen stricter measures introduced including the issuance of yellow cards to erring goalkeepers and the re-taking of the spot-kick.
This change has been enforced on some occasions this season, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang asked to retake his saved penalty after Norwich goalkeeper Tom Krul was deemed to have come off his line but earlier in the season, the same goalkeeper had saved two spot-kicks in the same match against Manchester United despite stepping off his line twice and having his teammates encroach the penalty box.
Another instance was when Heung-Min Son was shown his marching orders for stamping on Everton's Andre Gomez but Giovani Lo Celso was let off the hook for a similar offence (albeit with a lesser impact) in a clash with Chelsea some months later.
These are just two of several high profile situations where VAR have contradicted themselves in their judgement for similar incidents.
It is one thing for different referees to give different verdicts in the heat of action but for VAR to have differing opinions on the same incidents despite having the benefit of reviews defeats the very essence of the technology.
#2 The lack of on-field review severely hampers the efficiency of VAR
For all the camera angles and reviews available to the VAR, it is pertinent to note that apart from 'factual decisions' like offsides and wrong identities, the final decision in all other instances is at the discretion of the centre referee.
The VAR only acts as a consultant and gives suggestions to the match official who then proceeds to review his/her decision on the on-field monitor and can either stick to the former verdict made or issue a reversal.
However, in the version of VAR deployed in the Premier League, the consultation with the monitor was scrapped, because, in the words of the Professional Games Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), which is the body assigned with the responsibility of match officials in the Premier League, they want to reduce the time spent in reviewing situations.
In essence, final verdicts were placed as the responsibility of the VAR and the folly in this decision is that the control room still takes as much time or more than it would have taken the match referee to consult the monitor.
The major flaw in this system is that most VAR officials would not want to overturn the match referee's decision - especially in matters of subjective interpretation like fouls in the penalty box and handballs - as a matter of professional courtesy and otherwise.
For instance, say Michael Oliver, who happens to be arguably the most accomplished and experienced referee in the Premier League, today made a decision on the field. What are the chances of a less experienced VAR overruling his senior colleague without undermining his authority?
If it were in Spain or Italy, such a conundrum is taken away from the VAR, as the centre referee still has the final say and the VAR can only advise, with the match official making the official decision after consulting the monitor.
If the Premier League persists with this flawed version of VAR, it is in their best interests to discontinue its use because it severely undermines the authority of the on-field referee and would ensure that wrong decisions are rarely overturned.
#1 It has brought the game into disrepute
A key component of the FA rules is Rule E3 (1) which basically states that all participants of the game including players and managers must always conduct themselves in a proper manner at all times and avoid scenarios that would bring the game into disrepute.
Numerous players have fallen foul of this and faced sanctions, with Bernardo Silva's ill-advised social media post on Benjamin Mendy's skin colour the latest example of a transgression, while Jose Mourinho is perhaps the most frequent culprit.
For every time VAR gets a glaringly wrong decision, it sends social and mainstream media into meltdown, with conspiracy theorists suggesting that there is a plot by the Premier League to favour certain teams.
While this is in no way to lay credence to those claims, it cannot be argued that VAR has brought a lot of negativity to the reputation of the game and for a league that prides itself on maintaining a positive reputation, the Premier League should do away with anything that brings disrepute, of which VAR is undoubtedly one of them.
Published 02 Mar 2020, 16:20 IST