By Connor Varnish – @cvarn4
Teams in the Premier League recently voted in favour of introducing VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in the English Premier League next season.
While the topic continues to draw polarising opinions, it appears the vast majority of football fans echo the sentiments of those in support of VAR – and I agree with them (mostly). Let’s look at a few pros and cons of what VAR has to offer.
VAR first and foremost provides an excellent opportunity for referees to fix costly errors that have the potential to alter the outcome of the game. In today’s modern fast-paced game, it’s crucial for referees to stay on top of the play as much as possible, but we all know they’ll never be perfectly positioned for every major decision.
VAR offers a chance to fix some inevitable errors, and allows the insight of a second look at tight calls whether it be a penalty decision, offside ruling, simulation, etc…
The opportunity of a second look almost always guarantees the right call will be made – too many times have we seen referees make calls they simply aren’t in position to make.
A video assistant carefully dissecting a play in as close to real time as possible, with the ability to view as many camera angles as we see on TV, offers a near perfect chance for referees to always make the correct decisions, if not at least a more informed decision.
To show just how influential VAR can be in full league campaign, it’s interesting to note just how drastic the changes in league position were last season in the Premier League. A study from ESPN, Intel, and the University of Bath showed Liverpool as the unluckiest team in the league; the study determined that Liverpool dropped a whopping 12 points due to incorrect refereeing decisions.
Furthermore, the report also suggests that, should the Reds have been given the correct calls, whether it be from a disallowed goal, a missed offside call, and so forth, that they would have ended up in second place behind City.
It’s easy to see just how much VAR could have helped the Reds, but it’s certainly worth noting that VAR can obviously harm one’s standing; the study also concluded Huddersfield should have been the side relegated from the Premier League instead of Stoke City last campaign after a few unfair turn of events for the Potters.
Taking a study such as this into account shouldn’t matter whether you are the beneficiary or the one hindered by the introduction of VAR – the point of the matter is that the emphasis should be on the correct call being made – plain and simple; this is absolutely crucial in order to promote a game built on fairness and inclusion.
I completely understand the perspective of those against the integration of VAR as there’s definitely quite a few reasonable judgements against the VAR system as well. We all saw in Russia at this past summer’s World Cup how time consuming VAR can be. One could argue it noticeably impacts a team’s momentum, the noise levels of the crowd, and the overall flow of the game.
How many times in Russia did we see a referee half-heartedly make an important decision, only to immediately turn to VAR to get a better look at the play (granted the right call was always rewarded if I recall correctly, but the amount of time it subsequently took to arrive at the decision certainly is deserving of some criticism).
The whole process of the head referee going to VAR is too clunky as things stand. The amount of time it takes to arrive at any given decision must be quicker than what we witnessed at the World Cup.
Let’s imagine a European night at Anfield where the Reds are dominating an opposing team, pouring wave after wave of counter attacking football on the opposition to have not only have the momentum killed by a tedious VAR review, but the atmosphere inside Anfield hampered as well.
Human error will always be involved in VAR, that is just a fact of life and sport – and some plays will always be debatable no matter one’s allegiance.
VAR is 100% a work in progress, and I’m sure we won’t see it at its best next season in the Premier League, but I think it’s something players, coaches, and fans of every team should be open to as we move forward – VAR will only improve with time, and I think it’s a risk worth taking.
The opportunity for referees to give the most honest and accurate decision is something we should always strive for in any sport.
And while we’ll never completely rid the days where a dodgy penalty decision, or a questionable red card determine the outcome of a match, VAR certainly is a positive step in the right direction in righting those wrongs.