It seems that not a single Premier League gameweek can go by without some form of controversy surrounding the use of VAR (Video Assistant Referee). Recently, Brighton’s loss to Southampton at the Amex Stadium exposed yet more misgivings about VAR’s effect on football, as a penalty was awarded to Southampton despite the foul appearing to take place outside the box.
It’s just the latest in a string of controversial decisions which have kept the technology in the spotlight throughout the Premier League season so far. Despite countless assertions when it was introduced that VAR would eventually become a sleek, well-oiled machine, the reality is that the waters surrounding video reviews in football are simply becoming muddier and muddier.
It seems to be clear that there is no way to implement VAR that doesn’t lead to significant controversies, and to intense despair among supporters. Much of the emotion has been torn from football, simply due to the fact that a goal cannot be celebrated with any degree of certainty due to the lurking presence of various checks , waiting to disallow it for the slightest infringement. Predicting matches in the football betting becomes more difficult due to the sheer unpredictability that VAR brings.
With so many football players, managers and supporters unhappy with VAR and the way it is being used, is it reasonable to suggest that the whole experiment should simply be scrapped? Such a drastic step is perhaps unlikely to ever happen, due to the sheer amount of money invested in developing the technology and rolling it out across top leagues and competitions, but with the amount of opposition towards video technology, perhaps it’s not totally out of the question.
There seems to be a belligerence among football’s rule makers to accommodate VAR no matter what the cost to the game is, and only time will tell whether or not it can be integrated in a way that minimises controversy. At the moment, watching a football match, particularly as a supporter of one of the teams, can be an exhausting, stressful experience, simply due to the fact that there is an outside agent which has the power to overturn decisions on the pitch.
Before, football was thrilling for the fact that everything took place on that one rectangle of grass. The pitch was the source of entertainment, agony, ecstasy and controversy, and while it still led to anger and disbelief at times, there was a grudging acceptance that whatever happened on the pitch couldn’t be changed.
Now, VAR has come in with the purpose of removing those moments of doubt and controversy, but has failed utterly to do so, instead making the game a hive of even more anger and debate. Football has always been a sport where refereeing decisions are subjective, and where fans of one side will always disagree, and it’s been proven that VAR does not change that.
But it appears as though VAR is here to stay, and football fans will simply have to get used to the moments of disbelief that accompany its use. Perhaps one day they will come up with a formula that gets the most out of video technology, and reduces its overwhelming impact on the game. At the moment, however, that day seems a long way off.