VAR in the Premier League: Season of hell awaits

Referees will have a torrid time with VAR in the Premier LeagueRead it and weep?- VAR in the Premier League. It’s coming to a ground near you so get ready.

It is possible to both like and loathe VAR – the Video Assistant Referee. That’s the way I see it. It can be great entertainment, turn joy into despair and gets pundits frothing in their analysis. But it’s terrible if it affects your team!

VAR has been used on a few notable occasions already – the 2018 World Cup and Champions League 2018-19, for example. And of course there’s been controversy. Manchester United’s Herculean comeback against PSG is a case in point. The awarding of a penalty for handball against PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe cost the French side the chance of edging through to the quarter-finals.

Making refereeing more of a nightmare, VAR has also enjoyed recent action in the Nations League during the semi-final between Portugal and Switzerland.

But now fans should brace themselves for VAR in the Premier League.

Firstly, a few basics about the system. These will most likely cross your mind while watching a Premier League match from 2019-20 season on.

What does VAR mean?

Well, a number of things so it turns out.

For web coders Var is referenced in JavaScript programming language. In financial circles, VaR stands for ‘value at risk’. This is an interesting correlation when considering the eye-watering sums resting on correct decisions in football matches. However, VAR in the Premier League (Video Assistant Referee) is a whole different kettle of fish.

When is VAR used in football?

How to put this simply! According to UEFA, it will be used for clear and obvious mistakes relating to four match-changing scenarios. These events are: goals, incidents in the penalty area, red cards and mistaken identity.

Fans are kept in the loop by decisions being relayed on stadium screens or over the PA system. This is similar to other sports where the advent of such technology has enhanced the atmosphere at venues.

VAR in the Premier League – raging pundits on the warpath

Cast your mind forward to the opening weekend of the new football season. Picture the scene. There’s Alan Shearer sitting agitated on the BBC’s Match of the Day. He’s joined by the always fidgety, excitable ‘Wrighty’ – Ian Wright.

They’re both clearly about to lay into a VAR decision. This will become the norm very quickly and it will prove a turn-off for the viewer.

Football analysis has become very formulaic over the past decade. Pick out the highlights, add endless super-slow motion of a handball/foul/dive that wasn’t given. Gripe about it, rinse and repeat.

Television panders to a trending human notion that we should all be enraged. By football, by everything.

Move on!

In days past, a decision was made and players and pundits pretty much just got on with it. But every replay of a goal now features the screen being paused to check offsides. This happens even when there is absolutely no discussion to be had over whether a player is or isn’t onside. Each decision could make a show in itself.

In fact, the opening Match of the Day 2 show of this season saw Phil Neville perfectly sum up the VAR saga. “We brought it in and now everyone’s moaning about getting decisions right,” the England women’s coach said.

I have to agree. In general, punditry figures moan about a lack of technology, before moaning further about technology that does get brought into the game. The debate space has to be filled somehow but moving on from the issues a bit quicker would help.

VAR and similar video technology in other sports

There has not yet been a sport where the introduction of video technology has truly hindered the action. This is despite perennial warnings of: “It will slow the game down”.

With football there is always the notion that the action has to be non-stop or fans will get bored. It’s that terrible thought of having a brief interruption into fast-paced modern life. We’re led to believe this is unbearable and we’ll stomp out of the game in a huff. But it’s clearly nonsense.

Cricket and tennis use Hawk-Eye, rugby has excellent video assistance. This tech adds to the drama. Ok, so in football VAR could resolve matters a little quicker in some situations. But football already only sees the actual ball being in play for under 60 minutes.

If players stopped the histrionics and cheating spectators out of proper game time, a delay for VAR rulings wouldn’t be a problem. While we’re at it, introduce a stop clock for transparency. It works in rugby. Let everyone in the stadium know the referee’s watch has been stopped. Then there’s no issue over any amount of overtime.

VAR in the Premier League is way overdue

While on one hand positioning itself as modern and cutting edge, football takes ages to adopt new practices that have been widely used in the sporting sphere for some time.

VAR creates talking points where there used to be talking points about getting it introduced. Some of us are never satisfied.

Depending how you look at it, this provides part of its beauty. VAR sparks debate. It causes controversy and riles people. It’s the modern way of course. Everything is positioned to get somebody’s shackles up.

If you’re not frothing at the mouth with rage after watching a match or reading an opinion, then what’s wrong with you?

Image by Dmitry Abramov from Pixabay

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