Upon the resumption of the Premier League last month, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has come into sharp focus and it has been a bone of contention. With managers and players quick to express their misgivings about the system, the heat has been turned up on VAR. But should it be given the boot at the end of the season?
VAR was supposed to make life easier for the referees and clear up any controversial decisions. Yet what has been striking, is that it has been a hindrance as it has led to more mistakes and more confusion among the officials.
Since the restart, West Ham and Tottenham have been left aggrieved, with the latter left incensed after Harry Kane’s strike against Sheffield United was chalked off with a handball in the build-up. Lucas Moura was bundled over and the ball brushed his arm. While the law was correctly applied, it was a very harsh decision.
Although VAR has worked and slotted in seamlessly in other sports, such as cricket and rugby without disrupting their flow, it is hard to make the same case in football.
Rather it has led to dithering on the part of the officials and it is hard to see what VAR has spotted that the referee on the pitch may have missed.
Jose Mourinho was rather frank about the shortcomings of VAR after the defeat to the Blades and provided a withering assessment.
He said: “I never complain at the guy with the whistle because it’s not the referee any more. I think the referee should always be the man on the pitch and the people in the office should just support and assist.
“That’s not the way it is. The referee who is not very good on the pitch, we cannot expect that he’s good in the office.
“We’re going in a direction that’s really bad for the beautiful game, the game that everybody fell in love with.”
It is clear that VAR has been a bane and it has not provided the fluid functionality that many had hoped before it was introduced.
Perhaps what has been most baffling is that the referees have failed to use the pitch side monitors which makes it easier to dissect replays. Sometimes, it has been a mere leg or arm that has been dangling out that has been enough to sway the officials sat in an office in Stockley Park and leave fans riled at home.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has previously raised the idea of the Premier League gathering for an end of season summit to discuss VAR. A serious inquisition may well be welcomed, but maybe it will be too little, too late.
Arguably, VAR has been a blemish on the Premier League’s record and it has been an unqualified failure. While technological solutions are needed to take the pressure off the referee, VAR has affected the integrity of the game.
The dissenting voices have grown and it is becoming increasingly difficult to drown out the noise. The Premier League should admit VAR has been an experiment that hasn’t worked out and they should give it the red card at the end of the campaign.
Written by Charles Perrin