VAR is taking the fun out of football

Update: December, 03/2020 - 08:49
WAITING GAME: Players stand waiting for the VAR to make a decision. AFP Photo.

Paul Kennedy

Apparently, it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong, and sadly I don’t do it often enough.

But I feel obliged to use this column to confess to a terrible error of judgement I made.

Like a complete idiot, this time last year or thereabouts I said that Video Assistant Referee (VAR) would be good for football.

Foolishly, I thought it would get rid of dubious shades of grey and everything would be simply black and white.

How wrong I was.

You could argue that my dramatic U-turn is done purely out of loyalty to Liverpool, my team. And yes while it’s true they have been on the receiving end of some wicked VAR decisions this season (eight have gone against them, more than any other Premier League club) that is not my motivation.

An injury-time VAR penalty decision given against Liverpool on Saturday preventing an away win at Brighton sure did hurt, but that’s not the only sickener born out of the dodgy decisions.

The lack of consistency is shocking, something pointed out by Liverpool’s Andy Robertson this week.

He said, and rightly so, that if his tackle on Danny Welbeck on Saturday was a penalty as decided by VAR, then penalties should have been awarded on a number of other occasions last weekend, particularly in the Southampton-Manchester United game on Sunday.

It also seems to me that on too many occasions, referees are using the system as a safety net. No longer are they making the big decisions themselves and instead they pass the buck to others to make the call.

Refereeing standards have gone backwards because of this, and while I don’t really see things improving in the short term, there has to be some sort of review of the system.

Tennis for instance could be a good barometer.

Each player receives two challenges per set to review line calls. If the player is correct with a challenge, then the player retains the same number of challenges. If the player is incorrect with a challenge, then one of the challenges is lost.

Could something similar be brought into football?

A manager may be allowed to challenge one decision per half, and say one more if extra time is played in cup games.

It wouldn’t solve the problem 100 per cent but it could be something worth looking at.

Football is a fast game, played by athletes at the height of physical fitness. It’s exciting, unpredictable and full of energy.

Yet more often than not we are seeing games slow down, and, sorry to say it, the fun is being extracted from football.

Way back when, when I incorrectly believed VAR would be good for the game, the idea was it would stop people questioning afterwards what might have been. Was it a penalty? We’ll never know. Was it offside? Well the goal was given, so I guess not.

But once again I was wrong, as all football fans, players, managers and pundits seem to be talking about post-match is VAR.

Something has got to give. Something needs to change. VNS