VAR Did It All Go Wrong?

Jay Wood 09/07/2019 52comments  |  Jump to last

For those of a certain generation, you might recognise the play on words of the title.

It recalls the oft-repeated tale of the mercurial genius that was George Best who gave up the game far too early.

He’d had a (good!) winning day at the races in the company of the newly crowned Miss World. Back in their hotel room, scantily dressed, with ‘loadsa money’ strewn across the bed, a hotel bell boy entered to deliver the ordered champagne. He happened to be from George’s homeland and, without any hint of irony at the scene in front of him, in a thick Belfast brogue he plaintively asked:

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“Where did it all go wrong, Mr Best?”

Football supporters are asking the same question of VAR. There is a growing tide of discontent with the implementation of VAR amongst them and just how intrusive it is to the natural flow of the game.

Personally, I’m open-minded to innovation in any walk of life. Life, nature, society, technology, sport! – whatever – all evolve. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

I'd like to consider the evolution of VAR.

VAR in Russia

Football’s first high profile exposure to VAR occurred at last year’s World Cup in Russia. After some early teething issues with the best refs in the world familiarising themselves in competition to the new system (FIFA do like to launch such sea changes at their showboat events) and a flurry of early penalties, things calmed down and I thought the system worked extremely well. It effectively put an end to blatant man-handling by defenders at dead ball situations close to the penalty area, a bane of football that has exasperated the majority of supporters for many years. Good for VAR!

There was clarity on WHICH situations VAR might be applied, as described in this BBC link:

Just four incident types fell under VAR:

  • Goals
  • Incidents in the penalty area
  • Direct red cards
  • Correcting mistaken identity if the wrong player was shown a card

For the first two categories VAR could also ‘wind back’ to clarify if there was an earlier infringement by the attacking side in the build-up to any goal or awarded penalty.

Personally, I thought it was not overly intrusive. It corrected wrongs. The review process was slick and quick and not painstakingly slow. For me, it was a success.

VAR in the Champions League

The next high profile event to use VAR was the Champions League, but only from the KO phase which started in the New Year of 2019. UEFA applied the same four criteria as was used at the WC.

Again, for the most part, it worked well and the review process was once more slick. Those against bemoan the fact – in the case of the Man City-Spurs quarter final second leg – that it sucked the life out of the game when celebrating City fans thought they had scored a goal to qualify them for the semi-final, only to have it correctly turned over on review. I thought otherwise. I thought it ADDED to the drama and theatre on the night and whilst it cast City fans into despair, the Spurs’ fans erupted with joy. Ying and Yang. It was the correct call with HUGE consequences, both financial and emotional, that VAR was devised to address.

A more contestable decision occurred in United’s remarkable comeback victory away to PSG for a handball given against the defender’s ‘unnatural position’. I’ll come back to that later.

VAR – Summer 2019

Now this summer, we have had both the Women’s World Cup and a number of regional international competitions, Copa America, Gold Cup and the African Cup of Nations. I don’t know how VAR has performed or been perceived in the latter two, but I have been an avid viewer of both the women’s WC and the Copa America. Neither have been a great advert for VAR.

Why is that so when, IMO, VAR had worked so well at last year’s WC and in the CL?

Personally, I believe because – together with the application of FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) yet again ahead of a major tournament introduced a whole new raft of rule changes – the remit of VAR and referees application of it have been extended too far

(A quick aside. The IFAB is the board responsible for applying and changing the rules of the world game – you can see the new rules as they will be applied next season at this link).

I will list the rule changes here, how I consider them and their particular impact on VAR and the referees’ game management.

Dropped Ball

We are all familiar with the situations in which a dropped ball is called. Those bygone situations in which a ref dropped the ball between two raging balls who then went in studs flying to win the ball have long been phased out of the game. There is now a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that in some situations, the ball is gifted back to the opposition, albeit from a more distant position. Now we have:

  • A dropped ball in the penalty will be dropped for the goalkeeper to claim
  • Outside the area, the ball will be dropped to a player of the team that last touched the ball when the game was paused
  • If the ball hits the ref before going into goal, the ball goes to the opposition, or a promising attack occurs for the team that hit the ball against the ref, play will be stopped and a dropped ball awarded to the opposition.
  • In all situations, the ball will be dropped to a SINGLE player and ALL players from both teams must be 4mts (4.5 yards) away

A good rule change IMO and one that doesn’t and won’t impact on VAR. Easier for the ref to manage. Speeds up the game.

Free Kicks & Goal Kicks

  • If there is a defensive wall of 3+ players, attackers can no longer stand alongside them which always results in pushing and shoving and delays in the taking of the free kick. Now, attackers must be 1mt-1 yard from the wall
  • Both free kicks and goal kicks in the penalty are no longer required to leave the penalty area before a second player can play the ball.

We have already seen this at work. It is another good rule change for me and one that again doesn’t and won’t impact on VAR. Less work for the ref to do and keeps the game flowing.

Handball

Now this is where it starts to get tricky and, has been seen, is impacting on the use of VAR. The ‘good’ changes might be considered the following:

  • Deliberate or accidental handball will result in a free kick to the opposition if a goal is scored after touching an attacking player’s hand or arm
  • The same will result if an attacking player gains control or possession of the ball if it touches their arm or hand, which results in them creating a goal-scoring opportunity
  • NO handball if a player is falling and the ball touches their hand or arm when it is between their body and the ground, supporting the body (but NOT extended to make the body bigger – see below)
  • NO handball if it hits a defending player off a play by an attacker in close proximity
  • NO handball if it hits the arm or hand IF they are ‘close to their body, not having made their body unnaturally bigger’

Fair and sensible rulings, I suggest.

Now the more hornier rule changes on handball. It is handball if it hits a player’s hand or arm:

  • where they make their body ‘unnaturally bigger’
  • that is above their shoulder (unless the player has first deliberately played the ball which then rears up to touch said hand or arm)

This is more open to personal interpretation than the other situations and is possibly where controversy is arising.

Anyone who has played the game, or any sport that involves rapid movement and body adjustment, knows full well that (specifically) the arms instinctively adjust and extend to maintain your balance. It’s a survival mechanism to prevent you from falling and injuring yourself. The rules of Association Football cannot simply override aeons of evolution of the human form!

Most ‘deliberate handballs’ which this covers are quickly and easily identified by match officials and lay people alike. It should NOT take countless slow-mo replays, from multiple angles, to arrive at a decision if the handball was deliberate or not.

Quite simply, if VAR or a reviewing referee needs to ponder and replay multiple times before making a decision then to me this indicates ‘clear and reasonable doubt’. To accelerate the decision making and allow the game to continue the referee should quickly give the benefit of the doubt to the offending player. If the match referee is uncertain, then for sure post match a case can and will be made that it was a wrong call.

In this scenario VAR is not ‘improving on or eradicating wrong calls’ in game. It is only antagonizing and alienating the viewing audience.

Penalty Kicks

The greatest impact is on goalkeepers who must NOT:

  • be touching the goalposts/crossbar/nets
  • be moving (no more dancing and hopping along the line, as allowed under a previous rule change)
  • stand behind the line
  • they MUST have at least part of one foot on/in line with the goal line when the kick is taken

In the early matches of the women’s WC, there were a lot of re-taken penalties for this. I think words were said and that was reigned in a bit, because – as was discussed at the time on TW – this ruling tilts the balance too much in favour of the penalty taker. A cracking penalty save is as memorable a moment in football, as is a cracking goal.

There are MANY other rule changes you can read at the IFAB, but I have picked out the ones that impact most on how the game will now be played next season.

VAR and Offside

Another aspect of VAR that is exasperating many is the application of the offside rule, which you can read here - http://www.thefa.com/football-rules-governance/lawsandrules/laws/football-11-11/law-11---offside

Although many rules have changed, there has been NO new ruling from the IFAB on the application of the offside rule. Given how goals are now being ‘wound back’ under VAR to review the build-up play to detect any possible infringement, maybe it is time to change the very tight rules that currently apply to once again make life easier for the match day referee and less annoying for the spectator.

As has been seen, offsides are being called for having a toe nail, a digit, microscopically beyond the last defender. For me, and I’m sure many others, this does not count as an attacking player gaining an ‘unfair advantage’ by being in an offside position. For the football authorities to consider it does brings their own game into disrepute.

There has to be common sense balance between the human element and the all-seeing, unforgiving eye of technology. If VAR is going to be so rigorously applied, then the offside rule needs to be relaxed more.

Contrary to popular belief, there has NEVER been an offside ruling based on ‘clear daylight’ between the last defender and the attacker, as this Daily Telegraph article confirms – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/3033085/FA-dismiss-offside-rule-change.html

I would suggest that it should change that an ENTIRE FOOT needs to be beyond the final defender, rather than a mere digit as at present. This would make the job of the remote VAR panel easier and radically reduce the number of side line reviews necessary in game.


In conclusion, as I said, VAR was a success for me in Russia. It added to the drama of the CL. But this summer, due primarily I believe to the above-mentioned rule changes, VAR referral has been detrimental to the viewing pleasure of spectators.

This is NOT a match-going v TV spectator issue as some contrive to make it. It is not an ‘Americanisation’ of the ‘British game’ as others have claimed. It is simply one more evolution in the game of (professional) football.

There has long been a debate about why football doesn’t have a video review system. Previously, under Sepp Blatter, FIFA opposed it. Now, they promote it. It is not intended to guarantee 100% accuracy in its decision making. It needs to be refined, slicker and quicker, less intrusive to the flow of the game.

Oh! And it needs greater transparency.

Why, in other sports, live in the stadium, is the decision making process beamed to the paying audience, but not in football? Are football supporters not considered ‘mature’ enough to be allowed that view?

So – yep! – I’m personally less enamoured of VAR this summer than I was last summer. But I figure it’s here to stay and the authorities will recognize the improvements they need to make not to ‘damage’ ‘the product’ and alienate its audience.

I guess that places me alongside Mike Gaynes on the VAR question.

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Reader Comments (52)

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Ray Roche
1 Posted 09/07/2019 at 16:47:40
There are some good points (and posts) on here regarding VAR. James@97, yes, the game has changed since my first trip to Goodison some 60 years ago, and not necessarily for the better. Yes, attendances have rocketed in some places but what are the upsides and consequently, downsides?

Pitches are fantastic nowadays and are a world away from the cabbage patches that were in every ground in the past,masquerading as a "pitch".
And these wonderful surfaces allow City and other footballing sides to entertain us, and surely, that's what it's all about isn't it? Surely that has led to the boom in attendances, entertaining football being beamed straight into your sitting room, encouraging fans to get off the sofa and go the game.?

But the downsides? Feigning injury, diving, agents, bastard agents, pampered, overpaid prima donnas who are as far removed from my heroes* as a lad as you could possibly get, wrestling at corner kicks which almost ALWAYS result in a free kick in the defenders favour because the ref hasn't got the balls to give a penalty. When Mike Dean gave a couple of penalties against Stoke for that offence he was castigated in some areas for sticking to the rules. If every ref had had the courage to do the same maybe the game would be better still.
Oh, and referees who think that we travelled to the match to watch them mincing about. Yet still giving the Sky six the benefit of the doubt...

Yes, these downsides have entered football yet we all still go.

FIFA etc, had a chance to improve the game recently with some rule changes yet the opportunity has, in my view, been missed. A chance to rid the game of time wasting, for example, has gone. And diving. Sure, there is SUPPOSED to be a law which allows diving cheats to serve a ban but when has it been implemented.? (I think we all know the answer to that one!) I think the wording is something like "successful deception of a match official". what about an UNsuccessful attempt? Just because a player doesn't manage to con the ref doesn't make him any less of a cheat than say, Salah, who has taken it to a fine art. Have retrospective bans for players who TRY to cheat as well as the ones who get away with it.

Again, a chance missed. So are the FA/FIFA going to further cock up the game by introducing VAR? In my opinion, yes, in its present form. I said on another thread that if it takes more than 30 seconds from the time of the "offence" to an eventual verdict than the referees original decision stands, or the game continues. If it takes more than 30 seconds it's too close to call. 3 and 4 minutes to come to a decision is too long and will kill the atmosphere. VAR? No thanks, not as it is now. The faceless twats sat in Essex or somewhere will still favour the Sky darlings.

Steavey Buckley
2 Posted 09/07/2019 at 21:48:02
Under the old system, linesmen usually got their offside decisions wrong, because human eyes can't watch when the ball is played foreward at the exact moment a player receives the ball. Dubious penalties were given and given inconsistently. The pulling of shirts in the penalty area were never penalised because refs were not sure who were doing the pulling. The VAR will lead to more goals because players will have more confidence in referee decisions and will be good for players behaviors, which will effect the crowd behaviors.
John McFarlane Snr
3 Posted 09/07/2019 at 22:02:58
Hi Jay, you have obviously worked hard on your article, but I'm afraid that my views on VAR and changes in the laws of football have not changed. I'm still opposed to both. It's getting too much like 'Brexit' for my liking. I have made my views clear on the topic and I think that most posters, both pro and anti, will have done likewise.

I Respect the views of all who have posted on one side or the other, but as for myself, I don't intend to add anything else to the debate.

Mike Gaynes
4 Posted 09/07/2019 at 22:21:07
The most important point in this thorough summary is that the problems we saw at the summer tournaments when VAR was applied to the rules changes were the fault of the rules changes, not VAR. The changes not only outraged viewers, but appeared to frustrate the bejabers out of the players and referees.

We will never know for sure, but I continue to believe that as the WWC in particular continued, tournament officials saw what wasn't working and quietly allowed the referees to make adjustments to some of the more idiotic situations. There was less confusion in later games.

It's also worth noting that those of us watching the Gold Cup got a last look at life without VAR, because the tournament didn't use it. The omission may have determined the outcome of the tournament. Mexico was gifted a semifinal winner against Haiti on an extra-time penalty that TV replays showed to be a spectacular flop by Raul Jimenez. VAR would likely have overturned the call. Mexico went on to win the Cup.

Finally, I would expect this issue to "stimulate" further debate, but perhaps not quite in the way Jay describes the new handball rules. Might want to add a "T" to that word, Jay. ;>)

Andy Crooks
5 Posted 09/07/2019 at 22:21:52
Jay, that is a fine article. I think you know were I stand on this. Goal line decisions, nothing else. Refereeing mistakes are part of the match day experience, VAR is not, and it will, in my view, destroy the game for the match going supporter.
I loved your opening to this article, Jay. I suspect that some will say it is a myth. It is not.
I was lucky enough to meet Bestie, even though it was in his later years. That story is true. It was Marjorie Wallace and, according to George, the guy, he was an off duty chef, was really concerned about his well being. He really did ask were it had all gone wrong.
David Pearl
6 Posted 09/07/2019 at 22:23:07
Cracking effort Jay.
We all want a natural flow to the game.
I just remember Sterling crossing the ball from over the line for city against us... couple other decisions, like Millwall. Perhaps those decisions cost us a cup... perhaps not. I think we all want a fair shot. Human error shouldn’t be ruining our chances one way or the other, so I’m all for VAR. Though of course I’m expecting problems... but those will pass, you’d hope.
Andrew Ellams
7 Posted 09/07/2019 at 22:42:05
Disallowing goals over the size of a boot is not in the spirit of the game and will do a lot of damage.
Chris Gould
8 Posted 09/07/2019 at 23:12:46
Very good article.
The linesman have always had a very difficult task and tight offsides can always go one way or another. It's an accepted part of the game.
But now it isn't. So what exactly will a linesman do? What is the point of all those years of training? Offside calls are no longer theirs to make, so they will just flag for throw-ins and not much else. That's kind of sad.

Forwards will have to stop making the same runs that they could risk before. They could rely on a tight decision going their way as it was impossible for a linesman to tell if they were offside by an inch or two.
I don't think a player's foot should be looked at when judging whether a player is offside. I think it should be his torso and the last defender's torso that decide whether or not he is offside. Whether it's a forward's back, chest, or stomach which is beyond the last defender's back, chest, or stomach, that should be the decider.
If a defender steps out as a forward attempts to make a perfectly timed breakaway then their torsos could be in line, but a forward's foot is always going to be outstretched towards the goal whereas the defender's will be stepping up.
The offside rule was never made with VAR in mind. It takes the fun and excitement out of it.
Also, how far back can VAR be checked to rule out a goal?
What if they go back 30 seconds but at 32 seconds there was a slight infringement that the ref missed?

The way the refs use VAR in rugby union is so much more transparent. They explain through a mic what they think needs to be reviewed and why.

It's going to lead to a season of complaining but will most likely become accepted if they can rein it in a little and give more thought to how they use it with offsides.

Steve Carse
9 Posted 09/07/2019 at 23:18:24
I'm in the anti-VAR camp, for a number of reasons but principally because the 'rules' as such are not spelled out but instead still leave a great deal to interpretation, for the refs and the VAR official.

To take just one example, Jay references that VAR automatic consideration of all goals scored will involve 'wind back'. Well yes, but how far?

As I have posted previously, without some limitation the wind back could presumably be taken as far as where the 'scoring' side first obtained possession, and that could be a number of minutes. How farcical would it be if a side saw a goal at the end of a 30- or 40-pass move being chalked off because the opening pass of that move was seen through VAR to have been offside.

Of course, the obvious thing to do is to limit the offside review to the final pass to the scorer. Okay this would mean that detected reffing errors are ignored -- but that is going to be the case anyway for the vast majority of instances over the 90 minutes.

Don Alexander
10 Posted 09/07/2019 at 23:26:17
The problem with football is TV money (and the obscene wages/dividends/transfer-fees it generates), and VAR is TV's bastard child as far as I'm concerned.

The lead article averts to a cricket analogy in its "handball" segment, in effect quoting "any doubt must always be in favour of the batsman". That word "always" is in the laws of the game because runs in cricket are what defines the game as a basis for competition. Goals do so in football of course, but if the TV powers-that-be decree substantial delay is required to scrutinise whether or not a goal is legit the spectators at the ground better get used to lengthy frustrating delays. And most VAR scrutinies focus on legit goals of course.

So, with respect Jay, I don't believe VAR scrutiny will ever be foreshortened. On the contrary, whilst the scrutiny goes on and on it may be used by greedy TV companies to show re-runs of "Baywatch" to its huge TV audience (and thanks to Darren Hind on another thread for that amusing, to me, analogy of what emptied football grounds by 4.30pm at the latest about 30 years ago), whilst the ripped-off-fans in the ground en masse are abandoned as being of any significance at all.

Nothing new there then.

Steve Carse
11 Posted 09/07/2019 at 23:41:08
I think it's ridiculous when the rules governing VAR are talked about more than those governing the game itself. To the extent in fact where the tail is wagging the dog, with adjustments to the laws of the game being changed to accommodate VAR.

Not only that but apparently refs are being told to let the game continue even if they are near 100% certain that there will be reason to chalk any resultant goal off should it happen. There are going to be a lot of muted goal celebrations – that's for sure.

Derek Thomas
12 Posted 10/07/2019 at 01:34:51
Don't mind the 'idea' of VAR. But the Referee must run the game - VAR should not run the Reff. To my mind VAR is there for the Referee to ask - did I see what I thought I saw...or is it true what the player said - the ball was out, or in, as the case maybe.

We don't need a VAR tail wagging the football dog...asseemed to be the case in the Womens World Cup.

Hopefully it will self monitor and evolve into something not too bad we can...as if we have a choice, live with - but I doubt it.

Derek Knox
13 Posted 09/07/2019 at 01:46:07
Thanks Jay for your well constructed effort, I can't say up to now, I have seen anything in favour of VAR, although with it being in it's infancy, and it looks like it's here to stay, let's hope they can improve it, in all areas.

I am still of the opinion that although in most cases it is resolved, after a period of hope/disappointment depending on which side of the fence you are sitting, it is down to panel ref's interpretation.

Like in one of the Brazil matches recently, they had 3 goals disallowed, one by Firmino for shirt tugging (debatable) in the execution of the goal, some give it others don't, the other 2 being disallowed for a marginal off-side by a player who was not constructive or affecting the play. Again, I have seen some given in similar circumstances.

There is no argument that under the present set-up, that period of waiting for a decision to be made, irrespective of the outcome, is an entertainment wrecker, and any celebration, should it be given is very muted.

Darren Hind
14 Posted 10/07/2019 at 05:00:41
It isn't very difficult to understand why people say they will miss SOME games. It fact its gobsmackingly obvious. It's the horrible effect VAR will have on their match going experience that they will be turning their back on. Not Everton.

If we're playing Liverpool or Man United on a glorious Saturday afternoon. You've arrange to see all your old mates for a few before and after the game. Our boys are flying and you know the old lady will be bouncing. Its a no-brainer.

And its not about being a fair weather supporter. There are lots of different reasons why you feel you just HAVE to be there and they are not all good. Wild horses could not have stopped me going against Wimbledon or Coventry. However !
If we're playing Newcastle, on a freezing Monday night, The Mrs is down the bingo and you have a nice bottle of Mahatma in the cupboard. The undecided's will give it a very wide berth. They will still support Everton by watching it on the box. . and yes, VAR will still grind, but a nice glass of whatever you are drinking will nullify the impatience.

People smugly dismissing the possibility of gate fall should carefully read what people like John Mac and Dave A are saying. You may not have met either of these men, but you will definitely know them. Evertonians. Lovers of this club who simply go the match. They've been going for over a century between them (and the rest). The thought of "not going" before the season even kicks off, would never have occurred to either of them. Going the match is what they do.

It would be daft to suggest VAR would be the sole reason people will drift away, but I have this gut feeling that it may well be too big a leap. A change too many to the game we love.. . The final straw.

Alexander Murphy
15 Posted 10/07/2019 at 08:13:38
VAR was, as I understood intended solely for the officials clarification in cases of "clear and obvious" breaches of the rules which if they went undiscovered would result in an unfair outcome. (Odd that phrase "clear and obvious" since clear and obvious in this context are one and the same, aren't they ?).

What I have seen in practice (specifically during the WWC this summer) was a whole new bewildering search for the most marginal of transgressions. An example being a goal disallowed after innumerable replays because an attacking players foot was millimetres "offside" at a given point in the attack preceding the action of scoring.

In that example what the referee discovered was neither clear nor obvious during the preceding passage of play. Indeed, it wasn't either clear or obvious during the interminable replays. What it was, however, was miniscule and pedantic.

If the action(s) of a player are indeed "clear and obvious", then surely a limited number of replays from a limited number of angles at normal speed should prove sufficient. If that doesn't clear up the issue then, by definition, the suspected transgression is neither clear nor obvious.

Goal line technology has proved decisive and due to it's instantaneous "opinion free" nature any subsequent quibbling resulting in mass harassing of officials has been eliminated. Success.

What GLT did introduce was miniscule margins ( a suitable season changeing example temporarily eludes Me here for some reason *coughs*). Margins not reasonably assessable by a human official, but margins which are repeatable accurately and consistently time after time.

With VAR we have been introduced to "magic lines" for the purposes of proving or disproving off-side. This is all very well, but are the actual pitches marked out to this level of exactitude ? Of course they aren't, and as such the "magic lines" are nonsensical.

The game is played "real time" and should also be refereed "real time". Some actions when replayed frame by frame appear solid, dramatic and forceful. Seen in real time these same actions appear quite inconsequential. Remember, this is a technique which the film industry has deployed successfully for decades to add emphasis and thrill to a scene.

VAR and the new takes on the rules aren't improving the game, they could, but not in their current application, that much is "clear and obvious" to Me.

Steavey Buckley
16 Posted 10/07/2019 at 08:42:27
Off side and penalty decisions under VAR will remove doubtful decisions that changed games in the past. No longer will referees need 2 pair of eyes to get decisions right all the time. TV replays will make it possible for referees to get it right all the time with 1 pair of eyes.
Kevin Prytherch
17 Posted 10/07/2019 at 08:56:47
I have a couple of ideas here.

Firstly for offsides.
The current offside laws should stand for linesmen, however they should be slightly different for VAR. if VAR is to only be used on ‘clear and obvious mistakes’, then there should be daylight between the defender and attacker for it to be overturned. If goals are disallowed for a toe being offside, this is a marginal error and not a ‘clear and obvious’ error.

Secondly - the VAR should be limited to challenges by the opposition (unless it is something that has been missed, ie off the ball incidents), who clearly need to state what the challenge is. If the opposition review VAR for an offside and there was, in fact, a slight foul, then it’s tough. You didn’t challenge the foul. This would prevent goals being disallowed for minor infringements that no one actually spotted.

Any other ideas?

Steavey Buckley
18 Posted 10/07/2019 at 09:01:55
Offside laws should be banned for spoiling games. But I am happy to give VAR a chance.
Dave Abrahams
19 Posted 10/07/2019 at 09:23:17
Well done Jay, the amount of time you took to produce that essay on VAR was excellent.

Not to go on to much, VAR may improve the standard of decisions in the future but absolutely not in it’s present form.

There are also too many changes in the laws of the game to accommodate it, we will all have to go to night school to study the complete issue of VA bleedin’ R.

Peter Mills
20 Posted 10/07/2019 at 09:26:23
We have suffered much cruel and unusual punishment in derby matches over the years.

VAR is designed and guaranteed to add to the torture.

James Lauwervine
21 Posted 10/07/2019 at 10:01:55
Thanks Jay for a very good article. I'm broadly in favour of VAR but, for me, the issue is mainly around offside and there really needs to be a rule change. The idea of a finger or toe being offside is utterly ridiculous. I'm still annoyed by the England semi-final goal that was ruled out as it ruined what was an enjoyable game up to that point. There are also some issues around handball as you point out.
James Lauwervine
22 Posted 10/07/2019 at 11:47:37
Great post Alexander 13 by the way.
Sam Bull
23 Posted 10/07/2019 at 12:14:49
I find VAR being mentioned as "making the game fairer"; if so, it would be in all levels of football. It's not about fairness, it's about the decisions in a game of footy that cost teams money. So now, instead of one ref making the decisions, we have 4/5 others influencing the ref and the outcome of a game, all behind closed doors.

Football is unlike any other sport that currently has video review, it doesn't stop every other minute like other sports, only stops when the ball is put out of play, or a rule has been broken.

Let's take an example of a game last season, Liverpool vs Fulham: I think it was Mitrovic who scored from a cross only to be given as offside, Allison puts the ball straight down, plays the freekick outwide right, up the line from Alexander and onto Salah who scores, all happened within 10 to 20 seconds of the Fulham goal being disallowed.


1. Ref stops the game before Allison takes the free-kick to review the offside, and it's deemed offside (I don't think it was); LFC would most likely not have been able to score the goal on the counter, ruined the chance of counter-attack.

2. Ref stops the game after the Liverpool goal and gives Fulham the goal... farcical.

The goal line tech, yes, instant decision, but this reviewing from multiple angles, some angles were not even given to the ref (Nan City v Spurs) handball goal.. the TV audience were shown a conclusive video, the ref didn't get.

Too much room for abuse imo, takes the excitement and drama out of football. We cannot even celebrate a goal when it goes in now... might have to wait 10 mins after.

Dave Abrahams
24 Posted 10/07/2019 at 12:26:55
Sam (21), not sure if it was the same game but there was a game at Anfield, very much as you describe it, only when Allison takes the quick free kick, he kicks a moving ball, the goal still stood, the game might be Fulham as you say or possibly Cardiff City.
Sam Bull
25 Posted 10/07/2019 at 12:35:24
Yes, was moving for sure also.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgBcwAj3BMA

Sam Bull
26 Posted 10/07/2019 at 12:51:25
The whole point, though, is when does the ref stop the game?

If he stops it after the Fulham goal or any goal given as offside, then any counter attacks, an exciting part of football, is ruined and possibly for no reason. If he stops it after the Liverpool goal, takes the goal off Liverpool and gives Fulham a goal instead, yes maybe the correct decision, unless someone's long hair or big nose is given offside after 30 replays of the video from all angles, then it makes the game a farce.

We could add another variable into the mix. Say, for instance, Liverpool do not score from that counter; say Salah gets tackled in the box, appeals for a penalty waved away from the ref, Fulham regain possession, go back up the other end and Mitrovic is fouled in the penalty area, a penalty is given and for arguments sake Virgil van Dijk is given a red card. now the game has stopped, ref is then is told to review the offside goal? Goal given and no penalty or red card? How far back is it reviewed? Maybe the offside goal isn't given... Mo Salah tackle reviewed and given as penalty and then Van Dijk pen / red scrubbed out? I mean, it is, imo, fucking ridiculous.

Michael Lynch
27 Posted 10/07/2019 at 12:59:14
With respect to those who say that VAR should be reserved for "clear" errors - surely the very nature of VAR means that it will shed light on all errors, whether clear or not? So whatever the offside rule, VAR is going to pick up on very marginal decisions at the edges of the law. Having picked up on an offside by a toe-nail, what is the referee supposed to do? Give the goal even though it was offside, because otherwise VAR would be picking up on marginal decisions not clear ones? It's like being a little bit pregnant - once VAR picks up an offside, it's offside and the goal has to be disallowed.
Mark Murphy
28 Posted 10/07/2019 at 13:09:18
I wish they'd had VAR at Maine Road in 77!

Cheating Welsh cunt!!

John McFarlane Snr
29 Posted 10/07/2019 at 13:28:03
Hi all, I posted at [2] that I had no intention of participating further in the VAR/Law changes debate, but 'the road to Hell is paved with good intentions'.

While most posters have put forward views of possible positive/negative affects, I may be a lone voice in asking the authorities to abolish VAR, and to stop meddling with the laws of the game (some chance there). I once again, promise to steer clear of this subject but promises, 'like pies' are meant to be broken.

Kevin Prytherch
30 Posted 10/07/2019 at 14:13:15
Michael 25 - the ‘clear and obvious’ part is what VAR is meant to be used for by their own wording.

My argument is, a toenail is not a clear and obvious error, but daylight between players (probably half a yard offside) could be deemed as ‘clear and obvious’. Therefore offsides are only given when their is a clear and obvious error.

If anyone starts arguing then about whether there was daylight, we’ll then their just arguing whether it was very offside or just fairly offside. Either way, it would be offside.

The offsides at the moment rarely have a definitive camera angle that satisfies all. Until there is one, I don’t believe it should come into play for marginal decisions.

Sam Bull
31 Posted 10/07/2019 at 14:17:08
Yes, Kevin, if a ref has to watch a video of the incident 15 times from 15 angles, then it's not a clear and obvious error he's made or the linesman's made in the first place.
Michael Lynch
32 Posted 10/07/2019 at 15:49:10
Kevin,

I hear what you're saying, but do you think fans will accept a ruling that says "Yeah, it was offside, but not by that much, so the goal stands"?

What if it was onside, but not by much, and the ref has disallowed it? Is the goal not given then, even though it was onside and a fair goal, because it wasn't a clear and obvious error by the ref? Genuine question, by the way.

Kevin Prytherch
33 Posted 10/07/2019 at 21:29:48
Michael - I honestly don’t know.

I don’t think the technology used is a definitive as it should be for offsides. They look onside from one angle and off from another. I don’t think they solve much in that capacity, especially When you can be offside for having bigger feet, or an arm pointing where you want the ball to go.

Maybe challenges are the way forward. If you challenge an offside and they are marginally off then you get the decision.
However if you challenge a foul and they’re marginally offside then you don’t get the decision. At least then they’ll stop people asking for VAR on the off chance there was an infringement.
You could even have it on the big screen... Everton challenge foul, then everyone knows it will be reviewed when the ball is out of play.

Alexander Murphy
34 Posted 10/07/2019 at 23:47:03
James @22, thank you very much indeed, most appreciated. Especially because it's a long post.
Darren Hind
35 Posted 11/07/2019 at 02:44:23
My post was imported to this thread at my request as this one was actually about VAR.
Now having had time to read the article I have to say. . what utter Pap.

"Evolution"?????. . Evo-fucking-lution ??????????????????

We are not talking about a minor change in the back-pass law here, or a slight adjustment to the way a throw in can be made. . Were are talking about seismic change which eats into the very spirit of the game. A change so epic it has lifelong match goers telling us they no longer recognise their game.

I read this this wondering if it was the case for the prosecution or the defence. It really is all over the shop.

I loved the way the shambolic results of VAR in Russia were dismissed as "a few teething problems"
And the way VAR is credited for curing the all-in wrestling we see in the box every time a free kick or corner is awarded. What actually brought about the improvement was the desire to punish such infringements. The referees didnt just have their eyes opened. They have ALWAYS seen this grappling. Only now, they were under strict instructions to punish the culprits.

And what about this little gem;

"This is NOT a match-going v TV spectator issue as some contrive to make it" . . Very subtle. Why not just say something like "Look guys, as you all know, I never get near a game, but I'll speak for everyone anyway".

There has, to my knowledge, NEVER been a suggestion that it is match-goer "Versus" TV spectator situation. However You would have to have lost contact with all reality if you don't understand the is a massive difference between the two experiences. Having spent most of last season watching on a PC or the telly I got a very close look at just how big that difference is.
Ask yourself why people like John Mac, Dave and Tony Abrahams, John G Davies, Dave Lynch (to name but a few match-goers on here) are so totally against VAR ? It doesnt mean any of them are opposed, or against people like Mike (Gaynes). There is no "versus".. . They are just fans expressing their views from their seat.
The views we see here on TW may well be out of wack with the overall picture for all I know, especially when we are talking about such a small group of people, but the demographics are and should remain part of the discussion.

This article was a clear attempt to win people over to the authors way of thinking, for me it fell down at the very first hurdle with a truly bizarre analogy and it never really recovered.

Claims that;

Crowd reaction somehow enhanced a CL game.

A Handball decision can be justifiably called wrong AFTER a game - Oh that's ok then.

That we should be discussing the DEGREE to which somebody is offside rather than the mechanism by which these daft arsed decisions are made.

And the admission from the guy who penned the article is "less enamoured of VAR" after just one season, leave me to believe there is no need for the prosecution to present its case. The defending lawyer has just battered his client to death in full few of the courtroom

Paul Cherrington
36 Posted 11/07/2019 at 08:46:53
I am not in favour of VAR at all and think it will ruin the game and actually put people off following it, due to the frustration and annoyance it will cause.

The problem is that it will not make anything fairer or stop controversy over decisions as it was intended too (I assume). It still involves a human decision over whether to review a certain incident or not from the VAR official – in effect, nothing is solved but the responsibility is merely passed from the on-pitch official to a faceless one that no-one can see in a backroom somewhere. I think an official not actually involved with the game making calls that can see a team win or lose is a massive problem on its own in terms of annoying fans or players.

When it comes to VAR and fairness, it will not change anything in terms of teams like us getting a better crack of the whip. To have a decision or event reviewed still needs the VAR official to give the say-so first so things will still get missed if they don't. In terms of controversy, it will not help either as how it is being used still leads to subjective decisions in many cases that some fans will not agree with (ie, using it to decide on debatable handball decisions or penalty decisions that are not clear-cut).

To sum up, it is not only pointless but also will do more harm than good. The only way it will work is only using it to decide on purely factual things (ie, was the ball over the line etc) or being there for the on-pitch ref to call on if needed (as in rugby).

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

37 Posted 11/07/2019 at 15:25:53
You really can't help yourself, can you Darren?

You claim 'This article was a clear attempt to win people over to the author's way of thinking'

and that my piece was saying

'Look guys, as you all know, I never get near a game, but I'll speak for everyone anyway.'

It was nothing of the sort. It was an attempt to take a considered view of how VAR has performed this summer alongside the new rule changes introduced.

Do I offer my personal view on the evolution of VAR? Most certainly.

Do I do so in a dogmatic, lecturing 'I-know-best!' tone? Most certainly not.

I've quickly reviewed my opening post. It contains the following phrases which makes it very clear I am presenting my own view on VAR and its implications and NOT trying to impose my view on others:

'I thought' x 3, 'I suggest', 'For me' and 'Personally' x2.
'IMO', 'I think', 'I consider', 'I guess' and 'I believe' all once each.

I may have missed similar qualifying phrases.

That you were moved to write: 'I read this wondering if it was the case for the prosecution or the defence' rather suggests that I achieved the balance and fairness I was striving for.

And thank you for acknowledging that in my conclusion I openly admit to be less enamoured of VAR than I was last summer.

Was there anything you actually wanted to contribute to the debate Darren, other than see the name of a poster you dislike and post a rabid ad hominem comment?

Chris Gould
38 Posted 11/07/2019 at 19:30:24
It was interesting to watch the Cricket world cup semifinal today. Each team gets one review for each innings. If they ask for DRS and their challenge is upheld then they retain their one review. If their challenge is not upheld then they lose it.

Roy was given out by the umpire even though replays showed that it was the wrong decision. Due to England already wasting their review, he had to walk. That is very frustrating. The DRS shows that the umpire got it wrong, but the decision stands.

Without this rule, DRS would be used way too often by teams purposely slowing the game down. The power is still with the umpire and wrong decisions still have to be accepted, but there is the option to review, and continue to do so if your appeal is upheld.

Could that work in football? One review for each team per half. Also, the opportunity for the ref to ask for a review if he was unsure or unsighted. The referee and linesman would then continue to be in control of the decisions.

I guess where that method wouldn't work would be for offsides that are given by the linesman and then challenged by the attacking team. Play would already have been stopped and even if the review was upheld, the attacking team will not be able to take any advantage.

If linesman keep their flags down on tight calls and the attacking team scores, then the defensive team would need to use their review. But if they have already used it then they would be screwed, unless the ref decided to ask for a review. Attackers could take advantage and make very tight runs in the knowledge that the linesman will keep his flag down and the defending team has run out of challenges.

Offsides are going to be the real issues with var. Maybe the only way to solve this issue is to leave offsides with the linesman and not use var for any of them?

I don't like the idea of someone in a tv room speaking in the ref's ear and telling him what to review.

It is a very interesting debate and will be spoken about way too much this season, sadly.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
39 Posted 11/07/2019 at 20:43:42
In American Football, there is the "Coaches Challenge". Lots of specifics when it can be used (see the NFC game last season where the foul was non-challengable) but it does allow a coach to challenge just two decisions per game. There is also a penalty for a lost challenge which will be difficult to work something out in football but it stops poor challenges for the sake of it.
Mike Gaynes
40 Posted 11/07/2019 at 21:17:11
Yep, Phil, and the NBA has just announced they're adopting coach's challenges for next season. They already have it in baseball and hockey along with the NFL.
Darren Hind
41 Posted 12/07/2019 at 04:02:49
When you advocate VAR, you are advocating n-th degree. That's what's wrong with the fucking thing.

You cannot say you want the correct decision to be made, then attempt to fuck about with what constitutes the "correct decision".

I've heard all sorts of crackpot ideas about what should and shouldn't constitute offside. A yard. A foot. Daylight. The torso... "Luis Suarez, you're teeth are offside". The fact is, hardly anyone agrees. They all want their version. Not possible. When you shake hands with the devil, you accept his terms.

Handball IS handball; Offside IS offside. And once you start going to go back to the build-up of a goal, it's only a matter of time before you start going back to the build-up of the build-up.

If you are going to ask referees to apply what he believes is "common sense", you are leaving the decision open to interpretation... isn't that the way it has always been?

The fact is, although most decisions are straight forward and incontestable, virtually every game will have one or two moments of real controversy. VAR can't, won't change that; if anything, it will make matters worse.

People can forgive a guy for making an error when he has one look... but, if (as we have seen on numerous occasions already) he fucks up after seeing it ten times... All that delay, for what?

This is not Rugby, we are not simply looking to see if the guy got the ball down or not, that's just a straight forward "Did he, didn't he?" It's not tennis where Hawkeye simply has to decide if the ball is in or out. We are not simply looking to see which horse got it's nose in front as they crossed the line...

We are talking about Football. A unique game enjoyed and loved by the working man for over a century. A simple game which, when played well, you won't dare turn your back on. A game that has been richly enhanced by laws which were, are and always will be open to interpretation. An inexact sport made beautiful by its imperfections.

Darren Hind
42 Posted 12/07/2019 at 04:49:18
Oh, BTW Jay Wood.

Do you realise what you sound like? "Just because you don't like me"... WTF ?

You start your posts by babbling about Bestie and Mary Stavin, who although brilliant and beautiful, are totally inconsequential in this debate - unless you want to clumsily try to shoehorn in a, not very clever play on words... And you ask me if I had anything to add to the debate ?

The easily led may well fall for your usual claim of being unbiased, balanced and perfectly fair in thought word and deed, but most will see right through your hypocrisy.

You wave away the demographics. You inform us that it's not about "Americanisation" (A new one on me, but now that you mention it...) and after telling us what the debate is NOT about, you then condescend to tell other posters what the debate IS about. You dismiss other posters concerns about what is undoubtedly the biggest intrusion in the history of the game by telling them "Its simply one more evolution"

"Do I do so in a dogmatic, lecturing "I-know-best" tone? Most certainly not"

Wonderful stuff.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

43 Posted 12/07/2019 at 09:03:02
WOOF! WOOF!

Give a dog a bone.

Here's a nice juicy one, Darren.

Go fetch and gnaw on that boy.

Dave Abrahams
44 Posted 12/07/2019 at 09:11:39
Darren (41), good post Darren, and your point VAR ‘s interference in lots of cases will make matters worse, not better, is one of the many sticking points with me.
John G Davies
45 Posted 12/07/2019 at 09:26:45
Can somebody please tell me any benefit VAR will give to enhance the game we love?
John McFarlane Snr
46 Posted 12/07/2019 at 11:21:06
Hi Darren [41] and Jay [43] plus various other posts, I promised not to comment on VAR and football Law changes, with the proviso that promises. like 'pie crusts'are made to be broken. I believe that you know my stance on this issue, and I also think that all that needed to be said, has been said.

I appreciate that VAR is here for the long haul, and I'm sincere when I say, VAR could [and I stress could] force me to stop attending matches. Do you not feel that your verbal warfare, as interesting as it is, may be continued on a different subject?

Stephen Waller
47 Posted 12/07/2019 at 11:29:36
VAR (Very Annoying Refereeing) only introduces another layer of ambiguity to the wonderful game and for me completely destroyes its spontaneity. I'm totally with Darren#41&42.
Paul Tran
48 Posted 12/07/2019 at 11:48:54
The 'americanisation' is something I hinted at on another thread - no offence meant towards our US friends!

As a very infrequent matchgoer, one of the things I've noticed is an increase in 'razzmatazz' and an artificial shouty imposed atmosphere, which irritates me, as I'm from an era when we knew where we were and who was playing and we created a natural atmosphere on our own, without any prompting.

Football is rightly looking to 'expand it's product' to new territories. In my view, VAR is a nod to this. The artificial 'excitement', the referral to the apparently unaccountable people in the booth, the potential for extra advertising & TV revenue.

Football is big and good enough to expand it's audience without alienating it's existing base. I'm a big racing fan and in it's quest to turn racing into an open air pub with horses on the side, constant shouty announcements and loud fanfares welcoming winners instead of the natural, emotional atmosphere of old, racing is alienating it's core audience and much of it's soul. I don't want football to go the same way.

VAR is great for goal line decisions, could be superb for retrospective disciplinary issues, but I have grave misgivings about the rest of it. Delays, more disputes, more arguments, more indecision and in my view, referees subcontracting decision-making to 'the booth'.

If it's here to stay, it needs tightening up, with clear guidelines as to how it works with the new laws.

It's a wonderful, simple game made complicated by people with good intentions. Like much in our society at the moment, I'm not sure about the intentions.

Michael Lynch
49 Posted 12/07/2019 at 17:55:20
I really don't want to think about this anymore but.

Perhaps the best solution would be to bring in an element of "referee's decision" like in cricket? So the referee has to make a decision, as does the linesman. The ref then gets a word in his ear that it's going to VAR. If in the case of offside, the attacking player has some part of his body onside, and some part of it offside, then the call is "referee's decision" so whatever the ref decided in the first place goes. If in the case of handball it's not a clear snide Suarez style punch off the line, then again the decision goes with whatever the ref decided in the first place, whether it's handball or play on.

So I would probably have said that would leave the following decisions:

Pen in the womens semi for England against USA: ref called no foul, VAR had about a million looks at it before detecting possible slight foul - should result in NO PEN by Ref's Decision.

England Jesse Lingard "winning" goal in Nation's Cup semi against Holland; ref called good goal, VAR detected it was very marginally offside, but not so clear that any ref or linesman could have seen - should result in GOAL by Ref's Decision. If the ref had called offside, then no goal would be the outcome.

Sterling's last minute "winner" in CL semi against Spurs. Ref gave good goal. VAR showed very clear offside. Should result in NO GOAL cos ref made clear error.

Steve Carse
50 Posted 14/07/2019 at 13:10:37
The truth is you couldn't choose a less appropriate sport to introduce VAR into than football, a sport whose attraction and entertainment value derives from continuity and free flow of the action, but which is also plagued by cheating. Not only does VAR mean the loss of continuity (with the game broken up for minutes on end on occasion) but on matters of foul play the cheats will still con the officials and now including whoever is handling VAR.
Like others, I will be giving this season the benefit of the doubt with VAR, but if it significantly lessens my enjoyment of the game then my longer term spectating will be in doubt.
Brian Wilkinson
51 Posted 14/07/2019 at 23:47:40
Dave@24 was that game against Everton you are talking about, Alison takes a free kick whilst the ball is moving, the player he passes to hits the ball and Virgal shanks it so bad it takes a 90 degree turn in mid air, the rest is like a slow motion movie, you can see where the ball is heading, sheer panic, the rest is a nightmare.
Brian Wilkinson
52 Posted 15/07/2019 at 00:13:45
You can put your bottom dollar us being the first to have a goal ruled out by var.

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