The admission by the Premier League’s Chief Football Officer, Tony Scholes, that Video Assistant Refereeing, as currently implemented, is “nowhere near good enough” is at least a start towards trying to improve something that has become a clear detraction and distraction from the Beautiful Game.

No system like this can never be perfect but there is no getting away from the sense that, in the Premier League in particular, VAR is a mess, with more and more of the focus in the aftermath of matches being placed on contentious decisions made during the match from a bunker often hundreds of miles away from the action than on the game itself.

VAR in the Premier League is plagued by rampant inconsistency in the application of the rules – that’s without even mentioning how muddy some of those rules have become thanks to the continual meddling of the International FA Board (Ifab) – occasionally farcical decisions, well-founded accusations of over-officiating, a “mates club” culture where referees are afraid to over-rule each other, and a building sense among supporters of clubs outside of the “Big Six” cartel of unchecked bias – unconscious or otherwise.

We know how we got the point in 2019 where VAR was introduced in the Premier League. The growth in popularity of England’s top flight, the ever-increasing focus on and coverage of football in general, and the advent of super slo-mo analysis from in-studio pundits ushered in an era of forensic examination of all aspects of the game.

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Chief among them, of course, were controversial decisions made by referees and a desire to somehow eradicate the possibility that human error could ever influence or decide a match, sometimes with enormous ramifications in a sport where key results are worth more and more with each passing decade. Titles and relegation can come down to slender margins; likewise European qualification so the impetus grew to introduce a system of secondary checks that would, we were assured, ensure big refereeing mistakes couldn’t happen.

The reality, as we have seen, has been very different to the vision. Evertonians, in particular, know all too well how the process has become warped by inconsistency and unpredictability, incompetence, and, yes, the inescapable feeling that VAR has become yet another tool that favours the big boys. “Organised match fixing!” they cry.

Ask a fan of any team that has played in the Premier League over the past four seasons and they would probably be able to reel off a number of VAR cock-ups and incendiary incidents that are seared into their memory. For we Evertonians, the penalty awarded to Brighton when Michael Keane accidentally trod on Aaron Connolly’s foot and Lee Mason sitting in Stockley Park decided it should be a penalty (a decision that swung the impetus of the game back in the favour of the Seagulls who went on to win 3-2 and Marco Silva was denied a victory that might, at the very least, given him a stay of execution that season) comes readily to mind, as does the incredible Rodri handball farce of February 2022 and the red card awarded to Allan against Newcastle only the following month. There are, of course, many others without even mentioning instances like the two “double-yellow” controversies in the Anfield derby this season that couldn’t be reviewed by VAR because of the current rules.

Scholes asserted this week that, this season, VAR officials are running at 96% accuracy in terms of getting to the right outcome but that flies in the face of the impression among fans that the process has reached a low-point in terms of its impact on the game. Perception is reality, which is to say nothing for the dubiousness of the notion that 100% accuracy by the letter of the law should be the goal.

One of the more saddening aspects of top-level football’s devolvement into petty obsession with the minutiae of every passage of play and that meddling with many of the rules has been the elimination of the ability of referees to apply common sense and to officiate according to the spirit of the game.

One gripe repeated often in this column around VAR and hairline offside decisions is that by implementing such a precise measuring process, football has completely forgotten the intent of the rule in the first place – namely, to prevent strikers hanging around in the opposition goal waiting for the ball to be played up to them.

Similarly, the growing impulse by VAR officials to pore over passages of play leading to goals, sometimes frame by frame, to find a reason to rule out a goal or to give a penalty, violates the spirit of the laws and the notion, accepted for the first 150-odd years of the professional game, that human error is part of the sport, in every facet.

Finally, as if all that weren’t bad enough, we’ve been seeing a growing tendency by the on-field referees to avoid making big calls and relying on VAR to make them instead, not helped by a grading system that penalises refs for going against the advice of the VAR. This is, quite obviously, problematic when the onus on the VAR is supposed to be to intervene when a “clear and obvious” mistake has been made; so an official can’t overturn a poor decision that was never made and it gives the person sat in Stockley Park too much opportunity to “find” a reason to make a game-changing decision either way.

It all contributes to the unforgivable tragedy of VAR and that is the extent to which it has destroyed the great foundational thrill of football and that is the spontaneous celebration of your team scoring a goal. That supporters have to check the out-pouring of emotion from a last-gasp equaliser in the manner described by Matt Jones in a recent column for the Liverpool Echo is deeply saddening.

Fans of clubs who have come up to the Premier League from the Championship talk of the joy of supporting their side without the fear of VAR killing the joy in the game. In a nutshell, that is the greatest argument for scrapping VAR in all its forms tomorrow. Allowing for communication of decisions to the crowd won’t resolve the underling problems if the decisions being made are wrong to begin with.

All of these processes, approaches and assumptions can be changed, of course, and they would significantly improve what has become an untenable situation if done so in the right way. After all, it’s not so much the technology that is the problem, it’s the way it’s implemented by a generation of highly-criticised English referees.

Restoring the hegemony of the on-field referee and significantly raising the threshold for an intervention by VAR would help enormously, as would eradicating slow-motion replays on the pitch-side monitor and forcing the official to make a determination based on another look at what he saw (or missed) in real time.

Bringing back a greater respect for the spirit of football, where the rules are there to prevent egregious contraventions and to prevent very clear and very obvious errors, would be another step towards improving what has become a distressingly poor situation that has led to accusations of bias and eroded faith in the officials themselves.

Semi-automated offside, resisted by the Premier League to this point, could add another layer of legitimacy but only if much thicker lines are used to provide some latitude whereby any “daylight” between them would designate offside and would move us further away from the forensic drawing of lines, provide a greater margin for error by the technology itself, cut down on the number of goals wiped out by such fine margins, and remove some of that sense that fans can no longer celebrate for fear that a goal won’t stand.

Again, football wasn’t close to perfect before. Referees made mistakes, and the belief was that by introducing more technology leveraging the benefits of replays, the number of errors and poor decisions could be reduced and, perhaps, eliminated.

The evidence of the past four years shows that this was a false prophecy. VAR, as implemented by these officials and under the current guidelines, is deeply flawed and top-flight football is suffering for it. There is scope to vastly improve it but nothing the FA and PGMOL have done to date gives you any faith that all the measures needed would be taken and to the degree that would be required to bring back both faith in the process and that raw, spontaneous joy of celebrating a goal. If anything, under Howard Webb, matters have got demonstrably worse.

For those reasons, VAR should be scrapped but the debates over refereeing and how best to limit the impact of poor and erroneous decisions will never go away. And as long as technology exists – with further advancements involving AI no doubt just around the corner – there will always be a tendency from the most powerful influences in the game to use it in the pursuit of some vague notion of perfection that can never exist.

In the meantime, the powers that be will bumble on. Lip service will be paid for the need to speed up decision-making. Moves may well be made to open up the communication of decisions by officials to supporters inside the grounds so that they know as much as those watching on TV but, again, that won’t matter much if the decisions themselves are wrong.

All the while, the fans, top-level football and the very soul of the game will suffer and, and many of us will continue to curse the day that Video Assistant Referees were ever introduced.


Reader Comments (65)

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Rick Tarleton
1 Posted 11/02/2024 at 20:09:05
VAR is a system run by referees to support referees and, wherever it is possible, that is exactly what happens. Decisions made by match officials are, if it is possible, confirmed. If it not possible, then the referee goes over to the pitchside monitor and confirms his change of heart by signalling that it isn't his decision, it's the blasted technology and he's being forced into it.

Referees all know that one week they could be judging a colleague and the next week that colleague could be judging them. They are not going to risk antagonising anyone.
If VAR was to work, it might need to be run by anyone other than referees.

Julian Wait
2 Posted 11/02/2024 at 21:05:41
After the non-goal for Lampard vs. Germany in SA 2010 I was very happy when goal-line technology came in (yes, I know it is not VAR).

Similarly, I hoped and maybe expected that VAR would eliminate the worst decisions, and perhaps reduce the amount of diving for penalties. It has done neither, and it has introduced a whole raft of new problems and unintended consequences.

Fully in agreement with the offside assessment and need for clear daylight; in addition, we need ARs to actually call obvious offsides as well, rather than waiting a minute.

The sense of entitlement (for a correct decision) that comes VAR is also a problem; without VAR, I think people mostly "accept" all but the most egregious of refereeing errors or performances (Clive Thomas which I watched from the Kippax, Clattenburg which I missed, and the Rodri handball which I myself saw from the Bullens Rd etc).

Finally, agree we should probably just scrap it and start over. The game is just unmanageable as it is, and simply it's not as much fun any more.

Peter Mills
3 Posted 11/02/2024 at 21:27:22
“It all contributes to the great tragedy of VAR and that is the extent to which it has destroyed the great foundational thrill of football and that is the spontaneous celebration of your team scoring a goal.”

Lyndon, in that one sentence, you have nailed why VAR should be scrapped. Most sports depend for their result upon the accumulation of points. Think rugby, cricket, basketball, golf, tennis, exciting enough in themselves; but a goal is scarce, it is difficult, misses are frequent, saves occur.

That is the beauty of football — when a goal arrives, it should be like an arrow through your heart, or an explosion of joy. A glance at the referee and their assistant is all that is needed. They have taken that away from us.

As the late and lovely Melanie Safka might have sung – “Look what they've done to our game, Ma. Well they've picked it like a chicken bone and it's turning out all wrong, Ma, look what they've done to our game!”

Brent Stephens
4 Posted 11/02/2024 at 21:42:55
Peter, I had this argument with my Aussie step-niece.

She's a Geelong Aussie rules football fan and couldn't see the pleasure in watching a game of "soccer" with just one or two goals. Compared to Aussie rules which has "goals" galore (6 points for a goal, 1 for a behind) and with scores typically in excess of 50 points per team per game.

Thing is, I've been to Aussie rules games and a cheer goes up if a 6-point goal is scored (a stifled cheer if it's a behind); but even the goal celebration is pretty muted and short-lived. Nothing ecstatic.

VAR has given us worse than Aussie-rule type goals – muted and tentative celebrations.

Mike Gaynes
5 Posted 11/02/2024 at 21:45:00
There's no point in talking about scrapping VAR, because it will never happen, for two reasons.

One, there's too much money at stake, particularly gambling money.

And two, the turds and morons who run the FA, PGMOL and FIFA itself will never, ever admit failure to implement video replay, which has been successfully deployed in every other major sport on the planet.

Rick #1 is right about refs judging refs. It's a disaster. Either you totally empower the refs to be the only ones consulting VAR -- whether responding to their own doubts or a ping in the ear or a coach's formal challenge (as the NFL, basketball and hockey have done) -- or you take it completely out of their hands, as baseball has done, where a manager's challenge signal triggers a replay review in New York and the umpires never even see it.

Video replay works in all these big-money sports. It works in rugby and cricket and field hockey, and individual sports like tennis and fencing and taekwondo and judo. It even works to check rules violations in motorsports and horse racing and rodeo.

The only sport where a video review system has failed is footy. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is solely because of the idiots imposing the lunatic rules and bizarre officiating procedures, from the handball penalty psychosis, to keeping the offside flag down until somebody gets hurt, to booth officials warping the game to their own taste and pulling the referees to the sidelines.

This is the stuff that Howard Webb was supposed to straighten out, and I'm shocked that he has, as Lyndon says, made the situation worse. PGMOL had better find somebody else and empower them to dismantle the current system, because VAR isn't going away, and the train wreck is only going to keep happening.

Tony Abrahams
6 Posted 11/02/2024 at 21:50:55
I think the common denominator in most of the sports you mention that have made VAR a success Mike, is that officials talk, and explain why they have made their decisions, except of course in football, and this makes it feel like they have an ulterior motive or something to hide, maybe?
Mike Price
7 Posted 11/02/2024 at 22:05:14
Like many others I welcomed VAR because I thought it would stop the ridiculous decisions that were always given to the ‘big’ clubs. The reality is, is that it provides another layer of favouritism, bias, unconscious bias or simple cheating that can be applied facelessly at a distance, with more time to think and to find something, somewhere, in the lead up to the designated incident under review. Just about every goal could be disallowed if you look hard enough in the build up and this extra layer of subjectivity has made everything so much worse.
Derek Thomas
8 Posted 11/02/2024 at 22:11:22
Lyndon great piece and I think you're right "It is likely beyond the powers that be"

So therefore we need new 'Powers that Be'

Why?

Because the Premier League and/or PGMOL seem to me to be in breach of FIFA rules, which state (gist) 'The Referee controls the Game...with the help of Assistants'

But it's obviously they don't - The Assistants are controlling Referee!!

Disband PGMOL, form a new body...yeah I know it will still have the same idiots in it.

But the real trick will be to totally sever and forever distance this new Referees Association (Tm. pat. pending) from their (sky?) Premier League Paymasters.

These Premier League Paymasters who to me seem to have PGMOL under a dual thrall of being the person that pays the Piper while most definitely calling the tune via a few 'unwritten rules of engagement' of the...if in doubt first check the shirt colour and badge - then rule accordingly...variety.

To my knowledge they've tweaked it 2 or 3 times to fix things - and made it worse each time

Get rid and start again - yeah right, that's going to happen.

All Monoliths eventually fall, helped by outside forces, but usually from within, it's never pretty though and there are always casualties...truth being one of them and that's happening now with our case(s).

When the dust settles will we be seen as the first domino, should we change our name to FC Archduke Franz Ferdinand?

Or will it be a case of - meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Steve Oshaugh
9 Posted 11/02/2024 at 22:21:13
I don't mind the concept of VAR at all. The application of it in football is awful though. It only really works in any sport where it is applied to crystal clear objective situations only. Cricket has largely got it right but it also has natural pauses in play that allow for it. Rugby and league do a decent job but it is not faultless at all. League does appear to be a step ahead of union especially with the challenge system. My suggestion would be to take away the opportunity for the 'bunker' to intervene on anything but serious foul play (possible red card level only), offsides and goal line technology. All other decisions should be based on captains challenge on the field ( 2 per game and keep it if challenge is upheld)... give them 5 secs to challenge or move on. So if a team clearly feels it was handball or a dive they can appeal. No time for the bench to look at something and decide for the on field players. My playing experience is that players know exactly what happened and you can see from the immediate reaction usually. In cricket the players, generally speaking, don't do hail mary challenges but it does happen towards the end of a game or if a key player is given out (although football does have a much seedier history of cheating). Offside is offside and it doesn't matter whether you have it as it is now, or daylight, a line will have to be drawn on the screen and it will still be controversial i.e. what is daylight is still subjective. I would be comfortable for tight calls to be returned for refs original call as it is in cricket. That is not the same as a ref reviewing it again it simply says it's within the margin of error so we will stick with the original call. I would think the toes or armpit stuff would fall into this...
There you go VAR solved lol
Derek Thomas
10 Posted 11/02/2024 at 22:32:38
We all seem to basically agree (Mike Gaynes - eloquently put)
All we need now is for somebody to listen to Us and not the 'panel of experts' they will no doubt eventually convene to fix the whole shit show.
Mike Gaynes
11 Posted 11/02/2024 at 22:40:24
Tony #6, certainly, and I think the openness and transparency of the process certainly helps.

But I actually like the baseball system, where the manager signals a protest, and the umpire puts on a headset and tells the New York replay studio, "Hey, it's Joe in Chicago, we've got a manager challenge on this play at the plate" and in a minute or two New York tells him, "The guy was safe." And that's it. Done.

Danny Baily
12 Posted 11/02/2024 at 22:50:57
Anything that cannot be implemented in the National League has no place in football at any level.

Scrap VAR, and goal line technology for that matter. Get the pace back into the game.

Kevin Edward
13 Posted 11/02/2024 at 23:01:37
Great Article, and I would say that there is no great desire by the ‘powers that be’ to change anything about VAR.

The only thing that’s ’clear and obvious’ is that VAR makes it easier to maintain the status quo and keep the gravy train on the tracks for all the usual suspects.

The game is gone, what remains is something similar but money talks too much now.

A European league is sure to follow (with Euro Super VAR) but for armchair fans watching in replica shirts.

Perhaps that might save the English game for those who want to go along to the stadium and watch something more traditional.

Paul Birmingham
14 Posted 11/02/2024 at 23:09:33
Lydon, spot on nailed it

Its the biggest own goal, in the history of Football, in that it was never properly Soak tested, across the game, by the right people to form a fair feedback and development plan.

If the principles, giudelines, best practice and descision times as adhered to in both Rugby Union and League, then it could be absorbed, but Stockley Park!
Brain Fart City!

But it doesn't. There is no consistency and for me it's like the officials are doing "Spot the Ball" and guessing.

Throw on the general demise in officials in the UK, the last 15 years, and the Medieval structure of Masters EPL, the match day experience is now a lottery.
You don't know what will happen, in terms of match day officials descions.

To celebrate or not to, 300 second delays and worst in offside descions.

What's a penalty award? Say no fekkn more.

The game is no longer a simple game. The EPL, management team, are not trusted and has no healthy respect, from all away supporters, Ive met this season.

What's the real agenda, and they talk about sporting advantage?

They have their bank accounts and undeclared back handers to cushion, any actions by the UK government, which could happen.

It's no longer a simple game.
The Football match, is no longer the primary interest, its become an entertainment industry and that's, sadly the way the game has gone.

I watched the Beyer v Bayern game last night, on Utube, and it was a good game to watch.

Bayer Leverkusen, are a good team, and well deserved their win, it could have been 5, or 6.

The Bundesliga, as was and still is.

UTFTs!

Colin Glassar
15 Posted 11/02/2024 at 23:10:10
Danny 12, goal-line technology really does work.

I'd get rid of VAR, and referees, and replace them with AI technology.

C'mon you 49ers.

Kevin Molloy
16 Posted 11/02/2024 at 23:13:15
After the last four years, and having drunk deeply from the well of the scamdemic, I'm at the point of believing it's not incompetence, it's malevolence.

It feels like the game is being deliberately destroyed. If it's not never-ending accusations of racism or sexism, then I know, let's make sure the fuckers can never celebrate a goal ever again, that should do it.

Kieran Kinsella
17 Posted 11/02/2024 at 23:25:37
Colin

I kinda hope the 49ers win because all my Kansas City neighbors are acting like RS fans. Drunken, loud, red shirted spouting off incorrect “facts”. But, on the other hand, if they lose, they'll act like RS and burn down the city.

On the AI, interesting point. I've been using AI for all kinds of projects recently. Best secretary, engineer, accountant etc I've ever had. Could easily replace the overweight, short-sighted, corrupt Premier League referees.

Andy Mead
18 Posted 11/02/2024 at 00:15:10
If managers and players got together and all decided that the diving, cheating, rolling around and injury faking would all stop, then it would make a referee's life a lot easier.

I'd hate to be a ref in the modern game. The first thing any player does when he realises he's not going to win the ball, sprint or header, is to look for a free kick and cheat. That's what VAR should be used for.

A captain of a team should be able to say to the ref "Can we review that as my player never touched him." If he dived, or is holding just his face when he wasn't even touched in the face, then send him straight off. It would stop this nonsense immediately.

Then maybe referees could concentrate on getting the basics right instead of constantly having to put up with blatant cheating every second of every game.

Every club's players do it, week-in & week-out, even ours. But managers never ever see their players do it. VAR to stamp out cheating is all it is needed for in my opinion.

Jack Convery
19 Posted 12/02/2024 at 00:56:29
If VAR continues, I would recruit experienced referees from abroad and let them review VAR decisions week-in & week-out.

They have no mates to take care of. They will judge, on what they actually see in real time, not slowed down or stopped images. They should be separate from the PGMOL.

Jamie Sweet
20 Posted 12/02/2024 at 01:00:07
They don't have VAR in the Championship do they?

That's worth getting relegated for in my opinion. I hate it that much.

How wonderful it would be to be able to properly celebrate a goal again.

We might actually score some at that level too.

Alan J Thompson
21 Posted 12/02/2024 at 04:47:07
Andy (#18);

I wouldn't send a player off for feigning injury but I might insist that he is taken off on a stretcher and has to remain on the sidelines while he gets 5 or 10 minutes treatment before being able to return or to be subbed, I mean, Health & Safety, isn't it.

As for goalkeepers, the same as for others, Oh Dear, what a shame, never mind and nominate his 5/10 minute replacement from those on the pitch. The only problem being referees without adequate medical qualifications given how they have trouble with the rules of football.

Andy Mead
22 Posted 12/02/2024 at 07:10:06
Alan (21),

Great idea that. I've thought that myself. Nothing so embarrassing as a player rolling around dying and the second the stretcher carries them over the white line, they are jumping up and down waving their arms at the ref to get back on.

Even worse when they are lying on the ground but, even though they are injured, they still can put a leg over the white line to stop play if they are close enough. The whole world and the authorities can see it, why not do something about it?

Danny O’Neill
23 Posted 12/02/2024 at 08:05:53
I keep saying it and will continue.

VAR was needed.

The problem isn't the technology.

It's the confusing rules and incompetent officials.

We can all see it. How they can't astounds me.

Pete Clarke
24 Posted 12/02/2024 at 08:16:24
Andy. I agree with the first thought.

If they are feigning injury then they are cheating so send them straight off.

If they dive, then same thing. If there's a doubt about a dive or injury, then it should be reviewed afterwards and a ban occurs if cheating is found out.

I would also like managers to be interviewed on TV and asked these questions of whether they condone players who dive or cheat. Of course not one of them would admit to it but they would be a bit more wary about their players’ behavior.

Players themselves should be interviewed about this to put them on the spot.

Commentators often say that a player was entitled to go down because “there was contact”; well, that's another thing that we need to clear up. They should be told it's a man's game and if you can't play fair then don't play it.

VAR is a total mess that's draining the game of entertainment and excitement at a time when it's already harder to watch than ever due to the lack of equality between clubs’ resources. Look at the Man City bench on Saturday, for an example.

Rob Halligan
25 Posted 12/02/2024 at 08:26:29
The biggest joke is that programme on Sky, “Mic'd Up”, with Howard Webb and Michael Owen, where we get to hear the audio from certain games.

It's always the games where VAR got the decision right, never a game where they made a total dogs bollocks, except of course, the RS goal at Spurs when I suppose they had no choice after Bingo called for the audio to be heard.

Another joke is Ref Watch with Dermot Gallagher. He very rarely disagrees with any decision a ref or VAR make.

Tony Abrahams
26 Posted 12/02/2024 at 08:46:58
I actually watched a game in the Championship yesterday, Jamie @20, and when the ref gave a penalty, I thought where's VAR?

But then I realized that the decision wouldn't be overturned anyway, because it was very subjective.

Players are also very clever in certain situations nowadays, which obviously equates to we currently have a game full of cheating bastards!

Tony Abrahams
27 Posted 12/02/2024 at 08:55:22
Dermot Gallagher's opinion counts about as much as yours or mine, Rob, but Howard Webb is the current boss so his condescending pre-recorded programme tells you everything you need to know about why they are doing absolutely everything to protect these referees.

Get Howard Webb on ref-watch every Monday and then suddenly this programme would hold a lot more significance, and the consistency levels would soon have to improve; otherwise, everyone would have enough evidence to begin to see right through him.

Ian Burns
28 Posted 12/02/2024 at 09:53:18
Yet another great article, Lyndon, which should be stuck in front of all relevant parties, FA, PGMOL, FIFA and any other body that thinks VAR is working.

There is one fundamental issue here and that is football is played by humans, referees are human (most anyway) and the VAR is operated by humans and everybody makes mistakes and opinions will differ.

Those mistakes are made because football is different from the majority of sports in that opinions are subjective and many incidents are not black and white. One human will see the same action and have a different view of it.

The fact that an offside decision can take so long means that any pre-emptive celebration is like a premature ejaculation and we all know how the joy is taken from that situation!

Scrap VAR – it needs articles such as this one to stir up the natives to rebel.

Peter Mills
29 Posted 12/02/2024 at 10:08:24
I watched an Under-8s game yesterday, officiated by an old school referee, whose knees are troubling him but who has no problem with his booming voice.

He awarded a stonewall penalty and the lads who conceded adopted the now traditional stance of arms outstretched and faces of bewildered astonishment. “GET YOUR ARMS DOWN. NOW!” he roared at them. They very quickly did.

Dave Abrahams
30 Posted 12/02/2024 at 10:40:31
Great article, Lyndon, followed by a great response by all the posters with Andy @ (18) standing out for me with his condemnation of the players, managers and coaches who make the referees job a lot harder than it is and lose the spirit of the game completely.

VAR is not gong away, as Mike @5 says, so it is essential that in its present form, it is stopped and looked at again with some of the suggestions by people on here and the whole football area applied to stop the very poor and ridiculous way it is being used now.

Mal van Schaick
31 Posted 12/02/2024 at 12:06:27
VAR does raise questions about impartiality when, as #1 Rick raises a valid point regarding referees watching each others backs, taking priority over the actual outcome of a fair decision, especially when it is not a clear-cut decision, and where we are getting into the realms of fantasy decision-making.

If we are using technology in the game in order to resolve controversial issues, then we either embrace it, or cast it aside and resume normal service via the referee and line officials.

I don't see the problem of managers at the pitch side, being miked up, and being allowed to view controversial decisions on the pitch-side screen with the referee present and give their opinions in a short statement on the incident, then the referee can make their decision.

It will never be perfect, but the choice of tinkering comes from those who are officiating the game.

Tony Abrahams
32 Posted 12/02/2024 at 12:07:41
Andy's post explains why many of us believe that football is in the gutter right now, Dave.

Looking back through the years, I believe football has always been a reflection of life at that very time.

Lee Courtliff
33 Posted 12/02/2024 at 12:58:57
Not being funny or awkward, but you can't mention the bad decisions that went against us without calling out the ones the went in our favour.

Like Liverpool having a last-minute winner ruled out at Goodison in 2020 for minuscule amount of offside. Or the ridiculously soft penalty we got at Palace a few weeks before the derby game.

I've followed our club for over 30 years and I've seen us get away with murder... the penalty against Wimbledon when Peter Fear barely touched Anders Limpar and we got the penalty to put us back in the game.

Not to mention the unbelievable decision to award us a penalty against Watford in 2006 when the ball clearly hit Chris Powell on the head, not his hand. The ball even left a white chalk mark on his black head but we still got a penalty.

I was a firm believer in things evening themselves out, I believe our performances are more important than the referees!

I never wanted VAR, I just think people should concentrate more on what they do themselves rather than looking for someone to blame!

It completely ruins the ecstasy of scoring a goal when you know it may get ruled out for whatever reason. It hasn't helped anything as people are complaining now more than ever before!

As for bias, the worst decision of the season went against Liverpool when they played Spurs. I just think it's incompetence rather than deliberate 'fixing' of a game.

The old way wasn't perfect and teams were robbed, but I'd take that over the circus we have now.

John Raftery
34 Posted 12/02/2024 at 13:02:28
I am thankful to have grown old watching many decades of football before the introduction of VAR. If Mike is right and VAR in anything resembling its current guise is here to stay the elite game will never again provide those memorable moments so well described by Peter Mills.

We will not develop better qualified officials than we have currently. What we have done is made them subservient to the technology and the committee supervising it. We are probably only a couple of years from handing over decision-making to AI at which point we might as well sit at home and watch games on screens. That is the path on which VAR has taken us.

It is a myth that in matters of opinion, as opposed to fact, other sports have made a success of the use of television replays. I read this morning an article about an ‘unforgivable decision' by the TMO at a Rugby Union international on Saturday not to award a try.

Everywhere we see overreach. And where will it stop? Why not use it for every throw-in, corner, goal-kick and free_kick decision. That's where the pursuit of a bogus 100% accuracy in decision-making is taking the sport.

Danny O’Neill
35 Posted 12/02/2024 at 14:58:53
As a side issue, don't have ex-players commentating on their ex-clubs. It would be like having me in the commentary box for an Everton match.

Neville, spit the Caragher.

Mike Gaynes
36 Posted 12/02/2024 at 15:17:46
Pete #29, that's the way I referee the over-30 coed league on Friday night. I keep my cards in my pocket and pull my thunderous voice instead (you've heard it), and it usually works -- although I did have to red card some yahoo last week.

Andy #18, you make a great point that I missed. The players and (to a lesser extent) managers do bear responsibility for the system's failures as well. You don't see dives or flopping or "working the refs" in the NFL, rugby or Brent's beloved Aussie Rules (me too, Brent -- Hawthorn fan here!).

If stricter enforcement could get that out of the game, it would be a much better game and much easier to officiate. And VAR is the perfect weapon for that.

Ian #28, have you watched NFL games? Every bit as subjective as footy. One play is holding, another isn't. Does the ref call pass interference or was it incidental contact? The difference is that everybody recognizes it and simply gets on with the game. And the fans fully accept that once in a while they'll have to wait to celebrate a touchdown until replay confirms that the runner reached the goal line or the receiver got both feet down.

The difference with American Football is that the replay system, properly implemented, has become part of the game, a positive contributor to it, whereas in footy it has become a land mine due to the idiots running it. Footy isn't unique. It's just stupid.

Brian Harrison
37 Posted 12/02/2024 at 15:21:26
Watched clips of the Luton v Sheffield Utd game where 2 penalties were awarded, and neither side appealed for a penalty.

Just read Dermott Gallagher's interpretation of the penalties, he said the Sheffield Utd penalty was awarded because, even though it was accidental, the ball hit the Luton player's arm and it was above his head and it was heading to goal, then the rules state it's a penalty.

But he said we as refs don't like the rule, so change the rule.

Regarding the penalty awarded to Luton, it was a corner the Luton player headed it down on to the Sheffield Utd player's arm and even Gallagher said it was very harsh and he probably wouldn't have given it.

So if the people using the VAR are incompetent what changes can you make to make them competent.

Kevin Prytherch
38 Posted 12/02/2024 at 15:55:43
Andy, Alan and Peter - spot on about feigning injuries.

I used to feel embarrassed for the club when Richarlison and Gordon rolled around holding their shin no matter where they got touched.

VAR should be able to say “he barely touched him” and recommend a sin bin or card for attempting to deceive an official. It would take a matter of weeks for players to stop it and everyone's life would be easier.

Problem is – that means punishing the “Big 6” as they're often the worst culprits.

Tony Abrahams
39 Posted 12/02/2024 at 15:56:48
That was definitely one of the worst decisions that went against Liverpool, Lee, and would never have been allowed to happen if the referee had been miked-up.

Why won't they mike the refs up, and let us hear how they have come to make their decisions, especially when they are already wearing microphones so they can talk to each other?

Is it to hide the incompetence? Or is it much more sinister than that?

Paul Tierney gave those two penalties on Saturday that Brian has just mentioned, after going over to the pitch side television, and yet the same Paul Tierney, saw nothing wrong with Rodri's handball, whilst he was on VAR?

Everyone has their own view, mine is that some decisions have a feeling about them that goes way past incompetence. Get a grip, Atwell, taking over 3 minutes to award Everton's, second goal against Spurs, definitely had a feeling of real bias, imo, and made me leave Goodison feeling very angry, rather than very happy, considering Everton had just scored a last-minute equalizer.

John Keating
40 Posted 12/02/2024 at 16:06:51
Before, during and after implementation, I have been totally against VAR. In my opinion, it is the worst thing ever, and will continue to be so, introduced into football.

Even if they cut down the decision times to seconds rather than minutes, it takes away the spontaneity of the game. Nothing was better than going to the pub arguing about things. Now it's just VAR.

The corrupt lot at FIFA, UEFA, and the Premier League are only interested in money, not the fans. Footy as we grew up with, loved and embraced, is unfortunately long gone.

John Raftery
41 Posted 12/02/2024 at 16:13:12
Brian (37) I think part of the problem now is that rules are being set with VAR rather than common sense in mind. Each attempt at fine-tuning handball just makes things worse.

Without VAR no penalties would have been awarded in the Luton v Sheffield match. Rightly so.

Steve Brown
42 Posted 12/02/2024 at 16:24:52
VAR is far too intrusive and that has to change, as it is killing the enjoyment of the game. Goals such as Branthwaite's equaliser against Spurs can't even be celebrated properly.

VAR should principally be there to support penalty decisions and off-sides. In all other cases, allow the referee to call on VAR when there is something he/she wants a second opinion on. Otherwise, they should not interfere.

If you want to mitigate against manager or players complaints about decisions, perhaps allow each team one appeal to VAR per game if they feel a decision is wrong.

Change is needed though. It is getting so bad that we might as well ask AI to referee the games.

Brian Hennessy
43 Posted 12/02/2024 at 17:46:42
I was all for VAR before it arrived. Now, I would gladly get rid of it completely.

I can handle a few incorrect decisions from referees if It means I can go back to celebrating a goal when the ball goes into the net. These days, I find myself not getting overly excited when we score as I am expecting some tiny fault to be found after minutes of deliberation by some clowns watching slow-motion replays.

Brian Hennessy
44 Posted 12/02/2024 at 17:50:59
Listening to the Ireland vs Italy rugby match yesterday on the radio, it was interesting to hear the referee talking to the TMO about one decision he was deliberating over.

The ref made it clear that he only wanted to see the incident in real speed – no slow motion. He must have said it three times to let the TMO know he had no interest in slow-motion replays. I thought it was great refereeing.

John Williams
45 Posted 12/02/2024 at 18:59:22
Its not just VAR that rubs people up.

In one game over the weekend, a defender is pulling
the opponent's shirt in the penalty area and gets away with it.
Later, a player in the same game does exactly the same thing in the middle of the park and gets booked for the foul!!

While we are having a moan, what is the quadrant in each corner of the ground for? Every corner sees 99% of the ball outside this quadrant when a corner is taken.

David West
46 Posted 12/02/2024 at 19:02:21
I think in principle, like most, VAR is a good thing. It's the way it's being implemented that is the issue.

Some decisions VAR looks at, some it doesn't; some decisions they overule the ref, some they ask the ref to look again. There's no consistency. They should look at everything or nothing!!!

If a referee on the pitch gets to look at an issue once, live in play, and gets it wrong, yes it's controversial, but it's a genuine mistake or opinion.

If the referee on the pitch, and 3 others with all the other angles and replays still can't get it right, it's a total mess!!

You can have all the technology you want but it comes down to human subjectivity still, no matter how many angles or how slow something is played, and if the humans are not up to the task, you may as well have the one human in the middle of the pitch making the decision.

I agree with Lyndon that the offside law was to stop goal hanging – not to make sure you are not a hair's width in front of a defender. In my opinion, there should be daylight between an attacker and defender to be offside. The offside rule will be automated soon anyway, the tech is nearly there, so that won't be far off.

It's all just ripping the fun and joy from us in the name of £££s. Take Calvert-Lewin's red card; yes, it was rescinded, but the damage was done, we don't get compensated for him not being on the pitch, not being able to score for us after the ref said it wasn't even a foul, never mind card or red.

David West
47 Posted 12/02/2024 at 19:11:06
I watched the Superbowl last night and didn't see 1 player arguing with the officials or question their decisions, didn't see coaches berate any officials, they just get on with it, even the close calls and decisions that could go either way.

It's deeply rooted now in the game, to question the refs, so it's never going away.

Rob Halligan
48 Posted 12/02/2024 at 19:18:58
John #45…

The ball doesn't necessarily have to be touching the quadrant, as long as any part of the ball is overhanging the quadrant, then it's ok.

Andy Meighan
49 Posted 12/02/2024 at 19:39:34
Unfortunately it's here to stay. But to compare football to other sports is a bit futile really. The beautiful game has always been a separate entity and always will be.

As for fans on here comparing players from other sports not arguing with referees, they're probably the same fans who complain that our captain and players don't get down the referee's ear enough when a decision goes against us.

Harp on about officials VAR, and goal-line technology all we want but unfortunately, as others on here have alluded to, it was brought in to help the Sly 6, no one else.

Svein-Roger Jensen
50 Posted 12/02/2024 at 20:08:48
Offside has become ridiculous.

Offside was originally invented to prevent opponents from camping near the opposition goal because if they were allowed to, football will be boring because everyone will be punting balls randomly to the front in the hopes someone will score from that.

But now, offsides have been reduced to millimetres. Sure, it follows the rules of football, but really, do you need the VAR to assess that someone has half their shoulder or their thumb offside and rule out the goal? (I'm not exaggerating, it has come to that!)

Penalties. Now penalty winning is way too easy: as long as you somewhat touch the opponent in the box, it is now a penalty. The opponent can “trip” over you touching his leg and it's a penalty. This somewhat destroys the game because now people will dive even more under slight contact in the hopes the VAR will rule in their favour.

John Raftery
51 Posted 12/02/2024 at 22:49:22
Svein-Roger (50),

You say penalty-winning is way too easy. I think that applies only to certain teams at the top of the league.

Our team seem to find penalty-winning way too hard. Opponents can grapple with our players inside the area without fear of sanction.

Danny O’Neill
52 Posted 13/02/2024 at 05:52:33
I think we are mostly in agreement about the offside rule.

It bemuses me that a player can be offside because his thumb is barely beyond the last defender.

I liked the daylight rule, which disappeared. The current one doesn't give the attacker the advantage.

Andy @49, I played Army standard to a high level. Practically semi-professional with getting paid for it!

If you apply the letter of the law, Army referees would instantly red card a player who got in their face and used abusive language.

Believe me, it's a deterrent. It didn't mean we couldn't talk to the officials, but it installed discipline on the pitch.

Talking about officials, I've just remember a random moment. I served with Andy Halliday and we lived close together in Germany. He was our goalkeeper, a decent one too. But in a 6-a-side summer competition, he played out of goal and only went and broke my ankle.

Before he moved on to better things, he used to referee or be on the line for a lot of our matches. I always reminded him of that. Typical goalkeeper trying to play outfield!

Darryl Ritchie
53 Posted 13/02/2024 at 06:17:42
I've got a question about offsides.

Why, when a player is obviously offside, do they allow play to continue?

I can see someone getting needlessly injured, in a play that should have been blown dead moments before.

It's undoubtedly been explained somewhere at length, but I've missed it.

Paul Jones
54 Posted 13/02/2024 at 06:36:21
Hi Daryl.

The only reason I can see for the delayed flag is that it's easier to let play continue until a 'natural' end to a move (shot, save, corner, throw-in etc) to allow VAR intervention should it be needed than for a linesman to flag and stop play immediately only for the VAR to intervene and override that decision. For example, if a striker is on a one-to-one with a keeper before an incorrect offside decision, how would you restart play?

However, like you say, if a player is clearly offside when the ball is played and it's obvious to everyone, then why can't they do their job and stop play?

Paul Jones
55 Posted 13/02/2024 at 07:06:19
Just to add to that last comment. This behaviour would only make sense if the directive was that every offside would be checked by the VAR, no matter how obvious it looked. But I don't think that's the case as you can still see a flag coming up now and then pretty much straight away.
Steve Cotton
56 Posted 13/02/2024 at 07:52:22
For the Branthwaite equaliser, I was still expecting the VAR to disallow the goal saying that the defender didn't mean to divert the ball backwards, hence making Branthwaite offside. I am pretty sure that was the rule a couple of years back.

I seem to recall the RS benefitting from it a bit back... perhaps no one actually knows what the latest version of the rule is?

Shane Corcoran
57 Posted 13/02/2024 at 07:53:35
Daryl,

Despite being told to always play to the whistle, players have got used to also playing to the flag. So an incorrect flagging would result in attacks stopping prematurely and the VAR can't give a goal for a chance that never developed.

The not flagging is completely understandable from the linesman's point of view. Why do you job when the VAR can do it for you?

Rob Halligan
58 Posted 13/02/2024 at 08:43:58
Steve # 56…

I think the game you refer to was the Liverpool v Wolves cup game last season. As a cross came over, Salah was miles offside, and a Wolves defender attempted to head the ball away, but only succeeded in heading the ball backwards, and it fell nicely for Salad to score.

Funnily enough, this was also the same game where Wolves had a winner chalked off from a corner, or rather a cleared corner played back to the corner taker, who crossed again and someone scored. The corner taker was deemed to be offside by the linesman on the far side, though how he could see god knows, but the VAR couldn't give a decision because apparently they didn't have a camera angle on the corner taker when it was cleared back to him, so they went on the word of the linesman.

What a crock of shit!!

Mike Doyle
59 Posted 13/02/2024 at 09:32:36
Steve #56,

Last minute equaliser for Everton – yes, I was fully expecting a VAR intervention. Although the game finished over a week ago, I wouldn't be surprised if it still was (another special rule change just for Everton – a bit like the penalty simulation ban only ever used against an Everton player, then quietly dropped).

Mike Dolan
60 Posted 13/02/2024 at 13:27:15
Very well written and interesting article, Lyndon.

It is PGMOL front and center that is the problem. They are allowed to run the technology and infect what could be a useful tool and infect what they see with their own bias. Referees are almost completely unaccountable for their own decisions and strut around with arrogance and self-importance.

They have become stars of the game in their own mind.
It is always a PGMOL member interjecting themselves into the game, disrupting the natural rhythm of the sport. The VAR has never actually never made a call or stopped a game for an ungodly amount of time; it is always a human being who almost every fan suspects of being perhaps a little bent who are destroying this once beautiful game.


I believe that disastrous Richard Masters, who has demonstrated that he knows dick all about this game and who clearly is biased toward the big clubs so treats everyone else as fodder, is ultimately to blame for this other mess. He is a curse and must be gone.

Referees need to be publicly rated and must be fireable. Good proven refs could be hired on a merit basis from other leagues. PGMOL is doing an absolutely terrible job and the league's contract with them should be ended. Their members could reapply but they would be subject to public performance rating and as with the clubs themselves subject to promotion or relegation if they don't meet reasonable standards.

Keep up the good work. The ToffeeWeb podcast now that is posting so close to the games had just been brilliant for all things Everton and I really do encourage listening in.

Kevin Molloy
61 Posted 13/02/2024 at 14:43:17
Even if it worked like a dream, I'd still hate it. What's the point in watching the game if you can't celebrate after a goal?

Everyone who does at the moment knows there is someone in Stockley Park poring over the last 2 minutes, desperate to find a minor infraction so he can show his mates how clever he was and disallow it.

We managed to cope with human fallibility for the last 140 years without riots; I'd infinitely prefer a return to a VARless world. It's not an exaggeration to say VAR has ruined the game as a spectacle for me, and I'm sure many others.

Tony Abrahams
62 Posted 13/02/2024 at 16:12:30
Didn’t mean to head it backwards instead of forwards = offside. Didn’t even know the ball had hit me on the arm = penalty. Whoever is in charge of making up the laws of the game, doesn’t sound like they have ever kicked a football in their lives.

Please refer to Rob’s final sentence @58, for confirmation!

David Nicholls
63 Posted 15/02/2024 at 12:11:29
I feel as fans, we have brought this current mess on ourselves to a certain extent.

For years we have begged for ‘consistency' from referees.
To achieve consistency, the game has been reduced to black and white decisions. Any contact in the box, however minimal, is a penalty.

I would personally forgo consistency for the application of common sense. Allow the ref to call it as they see it. VAR should only intervene in extreme situations.

Brian Wilkinson
64 Posted 18/02/2024 at 20:04:43
Like I said to Danny, rugby league puts VAR to shame, they will never jump in, unless the ref asks for a review after a try or bad tackle. It is all done by the ref. The VAR should not be jumping on trying to referee the game.

If a referee gives a try, that's it, if he made a mistake, that's down to the ref himself, but most instances he will ask to review it and say either I have a try, or I have no try, then the big screen will show 8 different angle freeze-frames, he will then say "Camera 4 has a good angle, play that." He may even decide he needs another angle, then you get to see the replay on the big screen, slow-mo and zoom, the fans in the stadium can watch it.

The farce with VAR is you do not get to see anything on the big screen, unless you get a rare treat or seeing a still and some lines.

Even those of you who do not follow rugby league, it's worth giving up 20 minutes of your time if nothing else, to watch how good the rugby league technology is.

Danny O’Neill
65 Posted 18/02/2024 at 20:36:07
That's it, Brian. The referee is still making the decision, but it is visible and audible. Transparency from officials who actually know what they're talking about.

I watched some shocking decisions this weekend with no explanation.

I hope I don't see any tomorrow.

I'll keep saying it. It isn't the technology. It's the standard of officials and the implementation.


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