Oh VAR! What does one do with you? You can’t live without it, but living with it brings its own set of issues. Rather than becoming an instant solution, VAR is turning out to create even bigger loopholes in the officiating system in the Premier League.
The nearly-robotic mechanism of the “Virtual Assistant Referee” has caused some infuriating cases of controversy this season. Recently, Roberto Firmino’s clearly clean goal was ruled out against Aston Villa with his ARMPIT being judged offside. Last weekend, Sheffield United had a clear goal denied after John Lundstrum was adjourned barely offside in the buildup.
Now, those who know the rule books by verse will probably argue it’s taking the perfectly legal way of officiating. But the games’ natural flow is disturbed thanks to VAR’s ridiculous antics. Players can’t even celebrate without worrying their goals will be ruled out!
Maddeningly, the implementation of VAR has been much smoother in the UEFA Champions League or other domestic leagues than at has been in the EPL. Surely, there are ways to fix it. Here we’ll look at some.
Granting referees more power to decide the VAR calls
Even if a game goes completely fine, the referee is always in the line of fire for a tiny mistake they make. They obviously don’t get as well-paid as the Premier League players, but are still pretty well paid to do their jobs properly. In spite of that, they’ve come under heavy criticism (case in point: Michael Oliver being sarcastically hounded by Pep Guardiola) & unfairly blamed as a root for every VAR problem.
Instead of letting the men at Stockley Park (where VAR’s based) make the decisions, why not allow the referees in real-time situations some leverage over big calls as well? The referees must be given more authority over challenging or reviewing a VAR call depending on their opinion on a particular situation. No referee would EVER have given that Firmino or Sheffield goal as offside.
The officials must be allowed to keep an emotional touch to games by contesting or even ruling out such tiny margins, even if it means bending the rules. Of course, that’ll come with its own criticism, but at least the referees would garner more respect and keep the beautiful game from becoming robotic.
Why not make use of the pitch-side monitors?
Before VAR was implemented, every PL club was compelled to have pitch-side monitors at their ground for the referees’ assistance. In twelve game-weeks, it hasn’t been used a single time! Where’s the point of keeping it if you won’t even use it? There are surely some ego problems between the VAR guys & referees, but that’s affecting games now.
When it’s evident how helpful the monitors are for referees, as proven in the Champions League or even the FIFA World Cup 2018 when many game-altering calls were made, there’s no reason to keep it abandoned. The referees themselves benefit from getting real-time replays to adjourn the legality of a goal, foul or penalty.
Just because they’ve set up their own VAR room in a unique location doesn’t mean those guys don’t need help. They should consult with the referees better and grant the real-time official more opportunities to making their own calls from the replays, making sure there’s more authenticity towards their decision-making.
But, what about managers getting a say?
So recently the Telegraph revealed that in order to improve the use of VAR in the Premier League, there’s one interesting change being discussed. Apparently every manager will be given three chances to appeal controversial decisions during a game, be it that made by VAR or just the referees’ mistake.
That would probably mean the reviews be checked twice by VAR to decide whether they were right or wrong to do so. It’d also be more time wasted during games, pulling back momentum and frustrating players. Nonetheless, it’s very bizarre to give managers the right to appeal decisions. Some lowly clubs could try waste time by contesting unnecessary decisions.
I can’t even imagine how Jurgen Klopp or Pep will react to getting three appeals. Yeah, it would create even more chaos, creating more confusion. Rather than discussing such radical changes, VAR should just improve their decision-making, act less like an AI and more like a real-time fourth official with the key calls made during games.