VAR: is it flawed, or is it working?

A referee using VAR technology in the MLS

Written by Joe Willis (@joewillis_12)

The topic on the tip of every football fans tongue, Video Assistant Refereeing continues to cloud the beautiful game that has seen so much change in the last few years.

What was seen not too long ago as the development football needed to revolutionise the game, has since become a huge talking point following a number recent controversial decisions.

Just over recent weeks in the Premier League, VAR has given Watford a soft penalty against Chelsea, denied Manchester City a spot kick for a handball claim on Trent Alexander-Arnold, and the most debated decision of them all; Roberto Firminos’ armpit being caught offside to deny the Reds a goal against Aston Villa.

This has led many footballing fans and experts across the country to question – has VAR made a positive impact on the game or not?

What has gone wrong?

It is no secret that the execution of VAR from officials has not been delivered to fans the way many thought it would have been at the beginning of this season. Some decisions, ruled by the barest of margins but nonetheless correct by the laws of the game, have undoubtedly slowed the pace of many matches.

Fans are now delaying their celebrations after their team scores a goal, waiting impatiently before the officials make up their mind. Such delays have stripped away much of the well-known passion that English fans are so famous for having.

Week in, week out there are still incidents missed as referee’s choose to turn a blind eye, yet VAR fails to intervene. This begs the question as to whether it is being used enough, and more importantly whether officials are using it too selectively.

Over 12 weeks have passed and 240 games since the beginning of the season, and only a total of 29 decisions have been overturned. This includes goals, penalties and direct red cards wrongly awarded by the referee.

This not only highlights the lack of action taken by VAR officials, but paints a clear image that something needs to be done to ensure that each team has a fair opportunity to win premier league games.

Has there been any good?

Despite all the controversy surrounding VAR this season, it is the first year it is being used in the premier league. Like most alterations in football, it takes time for the transformation process to take place.

VAR chief Neil Swarbrick, said in an interview last week that he would rate the system “Seven out of ten”. Exclaiming that “We have more decisions correct with VAR than without it”, going on to state his belief that over the next few seasons it will still continue to improve.

“We are open to be evolving with this – it’s not a case of we’re not budging. We will listen to feedback and where we can improve things, we will do.”

With it being understood that the accuracy of key decisions has improved by 9% since last season, VAR is unarguably benefitting the game. But as far as Premier League fans are concerned, they are not yet convinced that this new technology is changing the football for the better.

As long as the officials are abiding by the new laws of the game whilst following the correct protocols, then it will eventually allow time for supporters to become comfortable with the evolution of VAR. After all it’s here to stay.

Ultimately, it is not uncommon for fans to disagree with decisions that go against them. This however, doesn’t mean that VAR is ‘killing the game’ as many would argue.

For the moment, the jury still remains firmly out on whether VAR has been a success in its maiden voyage, with the argument remaining of whether increased accuracy in decision making is worth the loss of passion from the Premier League.