We are two weeks into the 2019/20 Premier League campaign and, already, it has been rife with controversy surrounding the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
English football was late to introduce VAR and we have already witnessed the technology being used overseas, such as in the Bundesliga and the MLS. Last season, in the UK, it was used in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup and was voted in for the Premier League from the 2019-20 season.
However, the quality and accuracy of the technology will never be able to produce definitive answers and we have find ourselves debating decisions more than we did prior to VAR’s introduction.
The three main categories VAR covers are goals, penalties and red cards. Part of the package was a change in the handball rule, which was riddled with blunt disagreements from spectators about the interpretation of the law. Now, if an attacker touches the ball with their hand or arm, whether it is intentional or not, the goal does not stand.
The opening weekend saw Wolves succumb to the modified handball rule and their goal was chalked off against Leicester as Willy Boly handled the ball in the build-up. The introduction of VAR was welcomed by the majority, but this rule certainly needs rectifying if the technology is to be successful.
When it comes to offside decisions, red cards and penalties, you would think fans should not have any arguments with the outcome, but that hasn’t been the case. In the recent 2-2 draw between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, Erik Lamela grappled City midfielder Rodri to the ground, yet VAR failed to award a penalty. The lack of consistency will prevent VAR from being a success and if the officials are not persistent and do not enforce the rules correctly in every match, ultimately, it will not work.
As for the match-day going fans, they are being halted in the dark while VAR checks are carried out. The screens at stadiums display messages which inform the fans that a check is being carried out, but with no access to replays, they are left twiddling their thumbs waiting for the verdict.
VAR appears to benefit the stay-at-home spectators more, as they have access to multiple camera angles and replays allowing them to feel like they are part of the decision-making process.
The introduction of VAR will, overall, reduce errors throughout the course of a 38-game Premier League campaign.
However, there needs to be refinements to the technology before we can ever consider it a success. Everyone entertained the idea of VAR being introduced into the Premier League but is being utilised in a demoralising manner, which is sucking the life and initial euphoria fans experience when a goal is scored.
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