A Sensible Way Forward for VAR in The Premier League

Mary's picture
Authored by Mary
Posted: Tuesday, October 6, 2020 - 15:41

It’s ironic how technology meant to eliminate controversy in judging the beautiful game has been the single most source of disagreement in professional football. Either way, despite what your feelings are about the hot issue, it’s unlikely that the decision on adopting VAR in the Premier League will be reversed any time soon. To some, the technology impedes the authenticity of games, while to others, it is working perfectly to improve the beautiful game by eliminating guesswork in refereeing. The rest are sitting on the fence with varying opinions based on if it works in their favour or against them on match days. The 2020/21 season is barely underway, and the VAR is already sparking heated debates. We again find ourselves in a tedious push and pull! The million-pound question is, are there adjustments that can be made to make VAR less contentious?

The Changing Tides in Modern Football

Football has come a long way and the 21st Century is undoubtedly the period with the most significant achievements in actualizing a fair play gaming environment. Technology has played a substantial role in enabling such essential milestones. It goes beyond the pitch; modern technology has made the beautiful game more accessible and enjoyable to the global fan base. With better coverage, an inside view of individual teams, and the rapidly expanding online world, fans can finally be part of the game and even make real money online with updated 2020/21 sports betting strategies. Technology has proven effective in sports management, but only when a perfect balance is established to avoid disrupting the flow of the game. For VAR, it has provoked a different kind of reaction because it increases the time it takes to make decisions, thus breaking the game’s momentum by slowing gameplay.

Current VAR Rules

VAR only applies when the referee makes judgment errors in:

Goals- The video assistant referee is consulted to check offside errors after a goal or common infringements like shirt-pulling.

Penalties- This is currently the most problematic area as penalties are either given or denied once a referee consults and finds that the initial decision was wrong. Every time this happens, the entire stadium is taken on an undesirable emotional roller coaster.

Red Cards- This does not apply for second yellow cards, only straight red cards. The referee checks for dangerous tackles and violent conduct.

Wrong Identity- The 2014 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs scenario in the Arsenal 6-0 hammering in the North West London Derby comes to mind. VAR was used to correct a mistaken identity where the wrong player had been sent off the pitch.

The application of VAR is restricted to the four categories to avoid too many disruptions in the game.

VAR Adjustments Worth Considering

With every passing season, VAR is increasingly becoming an irreversible addition to the premier league. Ranting about it has proven futile so far. The only sensible way forward is making further modifications to regulate its overall influence on the game. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. A Time Limit for Making VAR Calls

    For any contact sport, the application of physical force will always be a grey area. This aspect of football is best judged as soon as it happens and should, therefore be a referee decision. Matter fact, if there is one decision that a professional referee should be able to make without second-guessing himself or herself is player endangerment through sloppy play. Naturally, you are more in touch with the game's rhythm when inside the pitch than when reviewing proceeding on a recorded footage. If VAR has to be used for this, a time limit- probably a couple of seconds, should be set for the referee to confirm their lingering suspicion. Otherwise, it all seems like guesswork if they are stuck on the VAR slow-mos and cannot make up his mind.
  2. Set a VAR Decision Bar Limit

    VAR is not there to lower a referee’s output. The refs should maintain their initial level of professionalism and conviction when making calls and using VAR only as a last result for extreme cases. This way the game’s tempo is not disrupted continuously with aggravating overturned decisions. When VAR was introduced in the 2019/20 season, it wasn’t used frequently in the initial games but as time went by, over-reliance on the tech has steadily increased.
  3. Eliminate Offside VAR interventions

    The naked-eye decision is best suited for this section. The VAR’s accuracy of reviewing offside video has a margin of error of around 30cm, therefore when the footage is freezed and the player's armpit or the foot is offside by 30cm or less, the decision should not stand. The two linesmen are more than capable of making a naked-eye call to give the game its natural flow. That is part of their job description anyway. With the insistence on VAR, a shirt lifted by wind will soon count as offside. A linesman can comfortably give the striker an advantage and make accurate calls on when it's appropriate to raise the flag.

What aspects of VAR do you think should be modified to put an end to the controversy?



Image: Ben Keller / CC BY-SA

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