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Let’s talk VAR

Posted by Ryan O'Leary on 1st February 2018

I’m not going to lie, I was struggling for inspiration on writing a blog this month, and then the Liverpool vs West Brom game happened. People have been crying out for technology to be used in football for years and the whole concept of a video-assistant referee (VAR) seemed like a good idea. However, what occurred in the FA cup match on Saturday evening raised more cons than pros on the use of technology in football.

Football is loved for its entertainment value, the end-to-end, fast paced, high drama elements are all part of the attraction. The seamlessness of the matches is why it’s aptly nicknamed “The Beautiful Game” but on Saturday when VAR took centre stage it resulted in confusion, miscommunication, and painfully long stoppages.

The whole premise of VAR in football is to minimise the impact that human error has on the outcome of matches – so in essence, it’s not a bad idea, right?

As my colleague, Ben, pointed out in his blog ‘A response to critics of video-assistant refereeing’ VAR has always been a hotly debated topic in the sport.  However, since its launch in the FA cup, it’s not the concept behind VAR in football that is receiving criticism, it’s the implementation that isn’t quite working for people.

In sports such as tennis, rugby and cricket, fans inside the stadium are shown the action that the officials are reviewing. Those fans watching the sports on TV also have access to the conversations the officials are having in the referral process. My main issue with the game between Liverpool vs West Brom was that there was a severe lack of communication between the officials and the spectators inside the ground, many of whom didn’t clearly know which incident the referee was reviewing back on VAR.

Another grouch I had with what took place on Saturday is the referee Craig Pawson took nearly four minutes to decide whether it was a penalty or not. Now I know that could be interpreted as being the referee’s fault but if this technology, which is meant to be helping officials with their decisions, is taking the fluidity out of the game then I’m not sure how this is a positive for the sport.

Of course, I understand that this is only the beginning of VAR in football and like all things new, it takes time in figuring out its best use. I just hope they manage to find a way that limits stoppage time and doesn’t suck out the emotion and entertainment that this great sport offers.

Ryan O'Leary