Is VAR ruining the game?

No. If you recall, before this season everyone was saying that NOT having video reviews was ruining the game. VAR has changed the game, but the controversies it has caused has seen some experts calling for it to be changed and even scrapped for offside decisions, a bone of contention in several matches so far this season.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) have said that Premier League refs aren’t using the technology as intended.

For a start, we have the weird situation where no Premier League referees have gone to the pitch-side monitor to confirm the decision of the on-field officials or those at VAR central. This shouldn’t be a voluntary option; it should be compulsory. Not doing so is a dereliction of duty. If you make the decision, you must confirm the decision.

The most controversial aspect of VAR is the offside rule. IFAB have reiterated that VAR should be used to correct “clear and obvious” errors, which should put the ball back in the referee’s corner. IFAB have said that if it takes seven or 10 camera angles to figure out the offside, then it isn’t a “clear and obvious” error and the on-field decision should stand.

Currently, VAR is using technology to draw a line from the attacker to the defender. The problem is they only use one point of the body and it’s possible to have one part of the body “offside” while others are not. One easy answer would be to take the position of four points of the body. For example, you would take the forward position of the head, armpit, hip and leg/foot. Offside would occur when three of these four points are deemed to be ahead of the defender. If you’re only going to use one point, then surely the foot is more relevant than the armpit. It is, after all, football, not armpit ball.

When the rules are reviewed, two other problems need to be addressed.

The benign handball has left plenty of fans scratching their heads this season. Now, if the ball touches any part of the arm of any attacking player before going into the net, it’s not a goal. So they’ve completely negated the ball-to-hand rule. The handball rule is clearly there to stop a player DELIBERATELY using his hand to control the ball. If Kevin de Bruyne smacks the ball onto your arm at 150 kph and you’re only 1 meter away, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not hand to ball and it’s not deliberate, so the goal should stand. Again, the referee should confirm his own decision and VAR’s decision. In this case, a subjective, human decision is likely to be more realistic than the current rule.

And then there was the ref gifting a goal to Manchester City against Sheffield United. The current (new) rule states that if the ball touches the ref, he can stop play and have a drop ball so that one team doesn’t have an advantage from his error, even if it’s accidental. In the Man City-Sheffield United match, City scored after the ref clearly got in the way of a Sheffield United player and effectively handed possession back to City, who scored through Aguero. Clearly the rule should state something like: “If the referee interferes with play in any way, he may stop play and award a dropped ball.”

Fans have to remember that those making the rules aren’t always the brightest of people. FIFA, for example, still think that a penalty shootout is the best way to decide the winner of the World Cup final after a draw. How dumb is that?

Written by William Bonds