If I was given a pound for every time someone has mentioned VAR this season, I’d have a similar amount of money as Bruno Fernandes’ weekly salary sitting in my bank account right now (google it – it’s a lot!). VAR has been at the forefront of many heated debates since its introduction to the Premier League in the 2019/20 season, yet now more than ever it seems to be dividing opinions after an extremely long string of controversial decisions. But the ultimate question that needs answering is, ‘Is VAR killing football?‘ and in my opinion, yes it is.
Pre-VAR, the initial refereeing accuracy across games was around 93%, but VAR was brought in to boost that percentage closer to the 100 mark. Back then, if referees got a decision wrong, fans would erupt into a raging uproar, screaming injustice. Fast forward to present time, if a players fingernail is ruled offside by VAR and a goal is disallowed, fans erupt into a raging uproar and scream injustice – no difference to pre-VAR life, except there’s a third party to place the blame on when decisions don’t go in favour your team.
But has there been any change in refereeing accuracy now that we have VAR in our games? And if so, is it worth it for all the controversy it’s caused? Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said that in the 2019/20 season, VAR had boosted the accuracy of key match decisions to 94%. After seeing VAR controversies multiple times a week, I’m intrigued to see how that stat has changed come the end of the season.
In my eyes, VAR is sucking the life, enjoyment and beauty out of football. We spend less time celebrating a goal as soon as it hits the back of the net and more time waiting for VAR to confirm if the player was onside, check there were no fouls further up the pitch leading up to the goal, make sure it didn’t hit a hand or a finger in the box and waiting to make sure the offside flag doesn’t get raised two minutes after the ball has been received – and by the time all the checks have been complete, then we can finally celebrate, but the raw emotion is gone.
Football is a form of entertainment, not science. We don’t need to get the rulers out to see if a player’s armpit or toe was a millimetre offside, as that doesn’t make it a ‘clear and obvious error’. VAR has become the talking point of a large number of games this season and has taken away the essence and excitement around some world-class goals.
On paper, VAR is a great technological addition to the world of football. It’s been a huge success in other countries as well as in other sports such as Cricket, Rugby Union and American Football. By why is it such a disaster in the UK? Well, it’s safe to say the execution of VAR in the Premier League has been nothing less than shambolic and many people point their fingers at the English officials to blame. If VAR is going to continue being used in the Premier League, some colossal changes need to be made in the way it’s used. Clear rules need to be outlined so that inconsistencies surrounding handballs, offsides and penalties can be clearly identified and don’t change from game to game depending on the referees and officials involved.
If you gave me the opportunity to, I would scrap VAR from the Premier League tomorrow, though that’s completely unrealistic as I can’t see it being taken away at all. But I’m not sure how much longer I can go on enjoying the games when it’s being destroyed by technology and VAR.
What are your thoughts on VAR? If you could get rid of it, would you and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments.