The VAR “crisis”

Adam Crafton writing about VAR on the Athletic makes a lot of valid points about the prism through which we saw referee’s mistakes before VAR:

It suited players because it deflected from their own shortcomings and mistakes. It suited managers because it gave them somebody else to blame. It suited supporters because it gave them somebody else to shout at. It suited live television broadcasters, because it provided material to fill the post-match hour with their handsomely-remunerated pundits in the studio.  It suited highlight shows because these were isolated incidents easy to identify and scrutinise in a short, time-confined period. It suited newspapers, particularly for late games, as it was quick, easy copy for journalists filing on late deadlines.

It is important to remember this context when dealing with the maelstrom around VAR. Those who are shouting loudest against VAR are the same people who were shouting loudest against the competence of referees. I think if football media and perhaps more importantly football fans were just a bit philosophical, they would see that a referee’s mistake would very rarely be the underlying factor in a result.

Mark Ogden also wrote a strong piece on ESPNFC about VAR:

“Some people are saying it gets the right decision, but we’re the players on the pitch and it doesn’t feel right to me,” Wolves defender Conor Coady said after his team had lost 1-0 at Liverpool on Sunday following two key VAR decisions. The first, when referee Anthony Taylor’s decision to disallow Sadio Mane’s goal for Liverpool following a handball call against Adam Lallana was overturned, and the second, when VAR ruled out Pedro Neto’s goal after Jonny had strayed marginally offside in the build-up. Both decisions were correct, so what does Coady want? Decisions that keep everybody happy even if they are wrong?

I think Ogden hits the crux of the issue with his question. Whether supporters admit it or not, a vast majority of them can only see things through a tribal lens. It’s not surprising to me in the least, that footballers are now echoing the fans and playing to the gallery with such nonsensical and irrelevant quotes.

We can have a legitimate debate about how the Premier League has implemented VAR and why they have introduced barriers and elements that no other leagues and competitions use. We may even come across some good solutions as a result of said debate. In an ideal world, the football ecosystem would be a mature one and we wouldn’t need VAR. But unfortunately for inexplicable reasons tribalism and petulance is rampant. That’s why we have VAR now. The least we can do is accept it for what it is, celebrate the correct decisions and just be patient as VAR evolves.