After working so hard to build the global brand of the Premier League, its bigwigs are now contriving to derail it. It's very early into the season and there have been enough controversies to highlight how mistaken the 14 clubs that voted against the introduction of the VAR were already.
Clubs inject in a lot of money to achieve success on the pitch by winning football matches. Losing or drawing is part and parcel of football. If it comes more naturally, it is in itself painful, but acceptable. But if it happens because of a mistake that could easily have been avoided, it becomes much more painful.
Pep Guardiola led his men to the Molineux in search of three points to enhance his ambitions of defending the title Man City won last season. Rather than all three points, the Cityzens returned home with one, dropping two valuable points and consequently relinquishing their position at the top of the table to Liverpool who won their game later in the day.
It was a surprise to many for Guardiola's men to fail to win at the new boys'. But it was the manner in which they dropped the points that must have hurt Man City and the neutrals the more.
During the global showpiece in Russia, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was introduced and proved exceedingly successful. Despite a few grumblings of delayed decisions, the VAR helped solve several controversies of 'was it a penalty, was it not', 'did it cross the line, did it not'. It saved FIFA the kind of shame it got in South Africa when Frank Lampard scored a very good goal that never was against Germany!
No lover of the beautiful game would love to see shameful controversy like that, or the so-called 'hand of God' by Diego Maradona against England in 1986. There's no pride in such incidents, not all.
In a bid to avoid such blunders, the Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1 have all elected to take VAR into their stride. It's a shame that the world's most competitive league rejected it. Now, that's not going forward, it's regression to say the least. VAR represents transparency and/or fairness at its best and that was missing in the game between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City on Saturday.
Credit should go to Nuno Espirito Santo and his boys. His tactics to stifle Man City, stay compact, deny the champions, space, squeeze their center backs and force them into making mistakes. They also kept Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker quiet, exploited the space the likes of Mendy would leave behind to hurt City and to be brave by taking the ball to them.
It worked perfectly. But it is fair to say that despite their bravery, Wolves did not deserve the point they got. The goal they scored was a clearly an illegitimate one. It was blatant handball and should never have stood.
You could excuse Mr. Atkinson for not spotting the infringement given his position on the pitch at the time, but the linesman should have done better. But since he too wasn't able to spot the illegality, VAR would definitely have cleared the controversy had it been available. It wasn't, and Willy Boly sped away in celebration, 1-0 Wolves!
There was another bit of controversy when Sergio Aguero appeared to have been tripped in the penalty area; and his penalty claims were ignored by the man in the center. City eventually got the equalizer through Aymeric Laporte and the game ended at 1-1.
For all its excitement, the Premier League must ignore all the trivialities of letting the game flow and catch up with the new world of technology. Rejecting VAR is one way of abetting cheating, which taints the game we all love.
The Premier League must sanitize up by adopting VAR as soon as possible to erode the 'he is only human' adage from the English game for good.