By Abhishek Majumdar
In the 2018/19 season, V.A.R was officially woven into the laws of the game and was used in the UEFA Champions League. V.A.R further saw its way into the famous F.A Cup in England and is seen as a tool to help the referees on the field.
But things haven’t been so rosy for V.A.R ever since. This season it finds itself in a bit of a pickle with people having debates about whether V.A.R improves the game at all, and should it still be used in the world’s most-watched football league – The Premier League.
So, what’s going wrong for V.A.R?
The football world seems to be speaking about V.A.R every week. The Video Assistant Referee, more famously known as V.A.R, has made quite an astounding impact on the English Premier League since its debut season.
V.A.R sets out to achieve certain specific objectives for football matches. The Premier League released an online statement before the 19/20 season commenced explaining these objectives of V.A.R for the league, for teams and for fans alike: “to correct clear and obvious errors in match-changing situations”. Match-changing situations would be goals, fouls committed, penalty decisions, overriding penalty decisions, and reviewing red card offences.
However, after only 12 games in the league, V.A.R is no longer the most popular technology in town. Several decisions that resulted in not giving handball penalties in recent games, because it did not seem like a “clear and obvious” error, have contributed to a growing negative sentiment towards the technology.
Some of the more controversial decisions include Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino’s goal being disallowed because of his armpit being in an offside position which disallowed his goal against Aston Villa. And Sheffield United had their goal denied by V.A.R because John Lundstrum had a toenail in an offside position when they equalized against Tottenham.
Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp said to Sky Sports: “they scored a goal, which shows all the problems of V.A.R” when asked about the foul on Divock Origi which led to a goal for Manchester United.
In a post-match interview for Sky Sports, Pep Guardiola said: “ask Mike Riley and his people (V.A.R team), not me” when he was asked about the V.A.R decisions. He added: “we dropped points because of our faults and others” when asked how he felt about the V.A.R decisions against Liverpool which saw his City side lose 3-1.
Pep Guardiola was more than lively on the touchline against Liverpool. He was seen complaining to the assistant referee for not awarding the penalty twice in their favour. After the game, he was seen congratulating referee Michael Oliver and his team where he shook their hand and said: “thank you so much” in a strikingly sarcastic tone.
A number of pundits have shared their opinions about V.A.R. Former Manchester United Manager Jose Mourinho when speaking about V.A.R on Sky Sports Super Sunday, said: “the main question is consistency. That’s what upsets me in this moment. One week it’s a penalty, other week it’s not a penalty”.
Danny Murphy said on BBC’s Match of the day: “V.A.R was not brought in for this” when speaking about toenail being given as an offside.
Jeff Stelling shared his opinion about V.A.R on Soccer Saturday: “scrap it, scrap V.A.R. Scrap it this weekend. Scrap it over the international break because it’s worthless, pointless, and a total waste of time”.
At the moment, V.A.R finds itself in a tricky situation with its continued usage in the Premier League being questioned more and more frequently. There are still more games left for V.A.R to prove it’s worth, but after an increasing volume of negative feedback coming from the managers, the players, and the pundits, even the fans V.A.R seems to be conceding to popular opinion.