The recent controversies in the Premier League show that the new technology is making a mockery of the beautiful game.
At the weekend, VAR overturned the referee’s decision and handed a visibly distraught Heung-Min Son a harsh red card for an innocent challenge which resulted in Andre Gomes suffering a horrific injury. The decision was slated by many pundits and by Spurs’ manager Mauricio Pochettino who labelled the decision ‘unbelievable’ and ‘the latest example of it (VAR) being unclear’.
Nottingham Forest midfielder Joe Lolley recently criticised the system, labelling it ‘atrocious’ in a social media outburst following another highly controversial moment in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. Luckily for Lolley, VAR is not in use in the Championship so their promotion hopes can’t be hindered by a clearly broken system. A report by KMG claimed that promotion to the Premier League is worth up to £170 million to a Championship club, and there would be even more outrage if VAR stopped a club from achieving promotion and gaining that outrageous revenue.
But there are curious disparities in the implementation of VAR over the past few years in English football. VAR was introduced in the FA Cup last season at all Premier League grounds and at Wembley for the semi-final and final itself. This created issues for lower league teams hoping to cause an upset. While Nottingham Forest faced no issues in their 2-0 cup loss to Chelsea last term, Grimsby Town who had full-back Andrew Fox sent off after three minutes after VAR overturned the referee’s initial yellow card. This not only hurt their chances in the game, but meant that the League Two outfit were without a key player for their following league games.
This format was not chosen for a second season by the EFL Cup, who scrapped VAR because it was only being used at Premier League grounds.
Despite the controversies, Nottingham Forest legend Gary Birtles supports VAR saying it would stop the team getting ‘robbed’, exampling incidents against Leeds, West Brom and Preston last season which cost the team points.
I think VAR as a system does work, as has been seen in the Champions League and across Europe, but the Premier League has tried to make its’ own interpretation of it and it has been a failure. Fans have been left in the dark and players are left guessing after scoring a goal. Although the system was initially introduced to help the referee, there has never been so much anger and controversy around referee decisions.