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VAR – does it shoot and miss? 

VAR is a highly contentious piece of technology used within football and has caused some alarming issues in the Premier League over the last week or so, ranging from missed red cards to controversial goal decisions. The question of whether the technology is being used correctly has been brought to the forefront of football fans’ minds. How can we improve the use of VAR, or should it just be scrapped altogether if it is causing so much frustration? 

Arsenal v Newcastle

In the match on Saturday, the awarding of the winning goal for Newcastle (leaving the score at 1-0) was surrounded by controversy. While the Premier League’s Independent Key Match Incidents Panel ruled that the decision was correct, many supporters and football fans were left questioning the effectiveness of VAR. 

Later reports about the moment the ball allegedly went out of play have been quashed by officials who say that the angle of the replay shown was “deceptive”. The use of slow replay of live game action can distort the realities of the game and can lead to dissatisfaction on both sides. A further foul on Gabriel and an offside were also checked, but deemed “inconclusive”. Are these really the conclusions that should be arrived at through the use of such technology? 

However, the same panel that concluded that the goal decision was correct, also declared that officials did not give the two red cards that should have been awarded. This includes the challenge by Arsenal midfielder, Kai Havertz, which was deemed “dangerous”. This is the sort of tackling that needs to be eradicated from the game, and if it cannot be seen in real-time, VAR should be used to quash such challenges in the minutes following. The technology needs to be used to its full potential, and such decisions like this shouldn’t be missed on their third or fourth review.

VAR is meant to be used only in “clear and obvious” cases, in relation to goals, offsides, and serious fouls. However, this appears to not be the case. A variety of contentious decisions have been made, and this suggests that VAR is failing within the Premier League. 

Tottenham v Chelsea

The London Derby was an extremely exciting, yet frustrating game to watch. The stoppage time of the game totalled 21 minutes, and a large portion of this was used up by VAR checks (nine in total), as well as players complaining – another issue that I won’t be discussing today, but needs to be dealt with! 

In the 11th minute of extra time of the first half, there was a possible red card for James with a challenge on Udogie. VAR concluded no red card, but the raised arm could have easily been interpreted as violent conduct, resulting in a red. There were two red cards given, as well as five goals disallowed by VAR during the game. 

Various petitions calling for VAR to be removed from Premier League football, for removing the “soul” of the game have been launched. One such petition on change.org has received 29,908 signatures, out of a required 35,000. 

However, VAR often works effectively, but it is the mistakes that are made which are focussed on. For example, if VAR had been used during the 1986 World Cup, England may have remained in the competition, when they had been knocked out following the ‘Hand of God’ goal by Diego Maradona. More modern examples include referees being able to check penalty decisions to avoid penalties given to players merely diving in the box. It has highly positive applications when used correctly, which happens most of the time.

Sport is filled with controversial moments, where both sides disagree over the same decision. The game is meant to keep supporters at the heart of the game, but VAR neglects this fact – the lack of communication and continuous contentious decisions leave fans frustrated and confused. While the technology itself could provide numerous positive aspects for the game, it is the referees who misuse the technology, with deep-rooted subjectivity and controversy, that cause the majority of issues. If this can be rectified, the technology might just shoot and score. 

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