When VAR was used in the World Cup in Russia last summer it was a moderate success, even though there were some rather interesting situations, such as Cristiano Ronaldo getting away with a blatant elbow to the face of his Iranian opponent. On the first weekend of 2019, the FA Cup third round is played with the rather dubious fact that some, not all matches, will be played using VAR.
Even though VAR is still being trialled it cannot be right that matches in the same competition are effectively being governed by two sets of rules. Manchester United were helped to a 2-0 victory over Reading after a penalty was given by VAR despite it being used to originally check on an offside decision.
Other reports state that VAR was actually checking for a penalty, whichever it was, it should not have taken the 2-3 minutes to make either decision. At Stamford Bridge, some players thought they were playing with VAR being used, when in fact it wasn’t being employed. Alvaro Morata was seen giving the TV symbol after being fouled even though this match was being played with the “Old rules”.
I have always been against VAR, and despite a slight change in opinion during the World Cup in Russia, I am still against it. During the World Cup if nothing else it caused some entertainment, but is that what we really want for the game? A game that will in the future become like a drawn-out American sport which is more about creating drama moments rather than the overall spectacle?
At Old Trafford, there was 5 minutes of injury time in the first half, which was caused by one VAR interruption. It is not unimaginable that games could end up with 10-15 minutes of injury time per half. On a Saturday afternoon, you could be walking out of the stadium nearer to 17:30, rather than the more usual 16:55.
What needs to be forgotten here is your individual team loyalties and think of the overall good of the game as a whole. Every team has been cheated out of a decision, every team has benefitted from a wrong decision, but that is what sport is about, drama, action and even mistakes from both players and officials.
Mistakes make a game better, not worse, if a match is played in the perceived perfection of Manchester City then matches will become nothing more than a boring procession of meaningless passes leading to a goal or a goal kick, maybe a corner if we are lucky.
To a point, all these perfect surfaces have nullified competition between big and small clubs already. Just look at Tottenham’s 7-0 victory over Tranmere on Friday night. Would that result have happened on a mud bath? probably not.
The beauty of football always has been that whether you play at Wembley Stadium or on Hackney Marshes, you are effectively playing the same game. This currently is not even happening in the world’s most famous professional domestic cup competition.
Time does have to move, I get that, but football is at risk of being changed forever, and for the worse in my opinion. Some people say, and this really angers me that, we have to have VAR because there is so much money at stake. This angers me because first of all if that is your main reason for getting technology involved then you have lost what sport is essentially about.
Secondly, money in football is all relative. If money is the main reason for getting in technology then it has to be done in the whole professional game, as getting relegated from League 2 can almost cripple a club. In the lower leagues, clubs can go out of business for such relatively paltry sums of money such as the £200,000 that almost sent Hartlepool United out of business last year.
I realise I can, and will be accused of living in the past and being a technophobe, but sometimes things are not always better. Perfection I do not think, is actually what people want.
Perfection is quite boring! Take a look at vinyl records, they went out years ago because tape was better, then CDs were better than tapes, oh then we had digital music which is a convenient way of listening to music, but slowly vinyl is creeping back in. This is because the sound of vinyl, the imperfections, and the atmosphere vinyl music creates cannot be replicated.
In time, if and when VAR is perfected, we will have a robotic sport where everything is correct, no real talking points, and we will have to find somebody else other than the referee to blame for our team losing.
But until then, on that quest for perfection, we will still have mistakes, we will still have controversy, but instead of it being caused by one man, it will be done by a team of 4 or 5 men instead.