Why VAR is Killing the Fun of Football
Ever since the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was introduced into the English Premier League, it has been a hotly contested topic. With multiple controversial decisions, tonnes of criticism, and severe backlash in its brief existence. In this article, I will discuss why I strongly believe we should get rid of VAR and explain why it is gradually killing the game we adore.
One recurring issue around VAR is how time-consuming it is. Often, obvious offside or penalty calls are looked at by the trained officials at Stockley Park for way too long. This needlessly slows down the game and therefore a team’s momentum that they might have built up to that point.
This was seen in the Premier League game between Everton and Tottenham on the 3rd of November 2019. This game saw a ludicrous handball call regarding Dele Alli, which ridiculously took over three in-game minutes to check. After the lengthy deliberation, the penalty was not given, and the whole debacle was publicly slammed by pundits, including Jamie Carragher who stated that, “VAR has not done what it has been brought in to do,” and that, “I do not want VAR.”
This critical statement was a damning description of what VAR had become. An overly time-consuming and general annoyance to the footballing world and the many fans who love the game and wish for it to return to its roots.
Another significant blight on the record of VAR is the controversy it causes. VAR decisions have become such a major part of modern football, and it has now become second nature to just accept the baggage that comes with it. Of course, VAR has its upsides helping spot things the referee may miss and disallow goals that shouldn’t have stood. Even so, the controversy that comes with these positives are not always worth it and VAR has now become the defining factor in football matches.
For example, in an October 2019 game between Arsenal and Crystal Palace. Arsenal (who are a club who have not received the rub of the green when it comes to VAR decisions) were deadlocked in a cagey affair at the Emirates Stadium with the score tied at 2-2. The Gunners thought they had snatched a last-minute winner but were left furiously gnashing their teeth when somehow the VAR officials for that game decided that Calum Chambers had fouled Luka Milivojevic when the majority of football fans would have agreed that this was in fact the other way around. However, despite having numerous trained officials overseeing VAR for that game, the decision was given the other way and the Gunners frustratingly had to settle for a draw.
This is just one example of how VAR has gone from a minor tool being used to help the game flow and eliminate the injustices in football, to becoming the dominating factor in football and often the main talking point of a game.
In addition to the controversies, possibly the most common scrutiny of VAR, is how perfect it is. The attention to detail is so fixated that there is no room for error. VAR decisions often come down to specific and unwavering margins. It’s either one or the other; there is no in-between with VAR.
The best example of this was the Premier League on the 30th January 2021, between Southampton and Aston Villa. The Saints had a clear penalty not given after a Matty Cash handball early on in the game, despite a lengthy look from VAR officials. But, VAR’s damage was not done there.
Infuriatingly, Danny Ings had a stoppage time equaliser disallowed for one of the most ludicrous offside calls in Premier League history. If you think I am over-exaggerating by claiming that his armpit was offside, you would be mistaken. The call could not be described as anything else but a joke, that not only cost the Saints a hard-earned point but also epitomised what is wrong with VAR.
The stress on certainty and emphasis on perfection takes a lot away from the natural game. Yes, of course, we do not want injustice in football, but the grey area surrounding referee decisions made the game what it is.
“Was that offside?” “Was that a foul?” “Was that a penalty?”
These are the sort of questions that football was built on. Mistakes are a part of life. Nothing is perfect and when things are too perfect, they often end horribly. VAR is a living testament to this philosophy.
All in all, VAR should be scrapped. It is draining a lot of the joy out of the game. It has substantial effects on specific games and league standings. VAR decisions can often be the deciding factor in close contests, which could affect top four contests and relegation battles.
Moreover, VAR has become pivotal in today’s games and matches often hinge on these decisions. Focus has shifted from free-flowing football, mind-blowing skills, last-minute winners, defensive masterclasses, and long-distance screamers to millimetre offsides, laughable handball calls, and terrible penalty decisions.
Players are unable to properly celebrate a goal as they fear having their fingernail offside and a goal disallowed. VAR has drained us of natural enjoyment and the element of surprise, and I firmly believe that. In the words of the late Claude Callegari, “it is time to go”.