VAR is tearing the Premier League apart


Man United’s Christian Eriksen is fouled by Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal FC at Old Trafford.

Man United’s Christian Eriksen is fouled by Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard in the course of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal FC at Outdated Trafford.
Picture: Getty Photos

Somebody a lot smarter (i.e. everybody) than me someday will write a e book about how VAR is the right distillation of the twin observe of know-how, each the development and the hindrance on society that it may be. Though, not like most technological advances, VAR has truly supplied one other job for somebody, as a referee has to watch it for each sport. Nevertheless it’s additionally made an previous job much more difficult, whereas mainly pissing everybody else off. Which sounds fairly rattling acquainted, as Comcast’s web bows out on me for a 3rd time as I attempt to write this.

VAR has been round lengthy sufficient now that you’d suppose it’s simply change into a part of the furnishings, and in some nations and leagues, and possibly even most, it type of has. Whereas nobody likes watching play proceed by means of what all of us suspect is an apparent offside, most of us perceive that’s how the sport goes to work now. Apart from aggrieved defenders and commentators who prefer to complain (hello there, Lee Dixon).

However the issue with VAR, particularly in England, is that it’s nonetheless run by individuals. It hasn’t changed individuals, and when it has been used to try to accomplish that is the place the true issues lie. The issue with individuals, in fact, is that they’re individuals. They’re flawed, and each single one can see an occasion in a different way than the following. So when the edge for VAR overturns is a “clear and apparent” mistake, everybody goes to have a distinct definition of that.

The Premier League had its greatest VAR brouhaha this weekend, unfold all through the league, and it has lots of people questioning whether or not VAR ought to nonetheless have a spot within the sport. It’s not going anyplace, however learn how to easy it out goes to be a very arduous highway to journey. Whereas the offside opinions may be annoying and minuscule, a minimum of there’s a particular rule in place. You’re both offside otherwise you’re not. In relation to reviewing fouls…that’s the place there’s grey space, and everybody’s notion of grey space is completely different.

Let’s begin at Chelsea first:

West Ham had apparently equalized Chelsea at 2 right after this collision between Jarrod Bowen and Eduoard Mendy. The ref initially didn’t think it was a foul, waving off Mendy’s rolling around on the ground as West Ham progressed the ball into the net. But VAR called the ref over afterward and then he decided it was a foul.

Maybe it is, but does this rise to the threshold of a “clear and obvious” mistake to you? All six of you who read this will probably not be unanimous either way. Worse yet, the review took forever, which it isn’t supposed to.

Next up is Newcastle, who had a winning goal ruled out when VAR pulled the ref over to look at a foul on Crystal Palace’s goalkeeper, even though Newcastle’s Joe Willock was pushed into the keeper which Lee Mason, the VAR ref for the match, somehow missed. Again, this system of VAR doesn’t work when the guy running it is a complete pillock, which most soccer fans would tell you Mason is. The “clear and obvious” here is on the VAR official, and yet it seems like his word rules all. Michael Salisbury, the ref on the field, took the VAR word as gospel, which seems to be how it always works out even though the ref goes to a screen himself.

Oh, we’re not finished. The Man United-Arsenal match may have gone very differently had Arsenal’s opening goal been allowed, which it was at first, but then wasn’t:

Does Martin Odegaard foul Christian Eriksen before Arsenal’s move for their goal that wasn’t? Likely, but it wasn’t called. Does it rise to clear and obvious? Maybe? But what’s the definition of that really?

The weekend wouldn’t be complete without an offside controversy, which possibly saw a winner for Aston Villa against Man City:

This is why Philippe Coutinho was ruled offside, and thus his ensuing goal was ruled out, except it was the rare time the referee’s assistant didn’t wait to raise their flag until after the play was completed. There will be no better argument for why assistants are letting things play out before flagging than this. Every complaint about that phenomenon should have this decision cited as the winning counterargument. VAR couldn’t even look at it thanks to the play being flagged dead, though you could argue that City’s defenders and keeper had stopped playing at the sight of the flag so we don’t know how it would have gone. Still, this isn’t how it’s supposed to work.

But what of the rest? It would seem the answer is to limit any VAR review to no more than 15-20 seconds. If something is clear and obvious it’ll become apparent in that amount of time, which is still more than enough for three or four angles of any call. But that still depends on the opinion of someone watching the monitor, and that will always differ. But at least the game will keep moving even if controversially instead of all of us standing around for four minutes and ending controversially. Still, it feels like if after 20 seconds a VAR ref says, “I can’t tell” then we can stick with the original decision and VAR isn’t re-reffing the game, as it feels like it is now. Will it end the controversy? No, but that might be an unreachable goal. It’s sports after all, and controversy is part of it. And as long as it’s the decisions of humans about calls and rules that aren’t clearly defined, this is just going to be part of the game. 

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