Premier League

Football needs VAR but laws of the game aren't ready for it

 • by Sam McGuire
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It was said introducing VAR would make football boring. That it would take away the drama and deprive fans and pundits of having anything to talk about after matches. 

Yet whenever it’s used during a game, it’s all anybody can talk about. The video assistant referee (VAR) was brought in to rid the game of questionable goals, dodgy penalty decisions and to remove the subjective calls made by referees in the heat of the moment.

It hasn’t really done any of that. Perhaps it’s even had the opposite impact; there is now more debate than ever before. 

Pundits on various English television shows are calling for it to be scrapped. The reasons for this opinion range from Raheem Sterling being flagged offside against West Ham United, Sergio Agüero having to retake a penalty in the same match and the handball incident involving Willy Boly as Wolves drew with Leicester City. 

VAR dominated the UEFA Super Cup, too. Chelsea were awarded a contentious penalty in extra-time which, at full speed, looked a spot-kick. 

It appeared as though Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian had hastily left his line and collided with Tammy AbrahamReplays, however, showed there was minimal contact and the Chelsea striker was already on his way down.

BT Sport informed viewers match officials didn’t have the correct angle from which to judge. The decision was upheld and Jorginho converted from 12-yards

This fuels the ‘what’s the point in VAR?’ argument. And if we’re honest, it shouldn’t be utilised if those reviewing the incidents don’t have all angles covered. 

Wolves lost out on all three points after Leander Dendoncker’s goal was ruled out for a Boly handball. The defender knew nothing about it, making a genuine attempt to get on the end of a corner, but the ball ricocheted off his arm before the Belgian midfielder lashed home from close range. 

Was it a stupid decision? Yes. Should it have been disallowed? No. Was the video assistant referee following the rules to the letter of the law? Yes. That’s where the problem lies. With the laws of the game, not with those carrying them out. 

The handball rule changed this summer to strip away the subjective calls. No longer does it have to be done on purpose, anytime the ball hits an arm it’s an offence.

The ire of the masses shouldn’t be aimed at this newly implemented technology, it should be aimed at those coming up with these rule changes. 

Similarly, following the letter of the law to the tee was the theme at the London Stadium last Saturday. Sterling was marginally offside. But he was offside. That’s all that matters because everything in football is now black or white with VAR removing any areas of grey.

Declan Rice prematurely crept into the penalty area before Agüero struck his penalty. It rendered Łukasz Fabiański’s save pointless as the Argentine confidently dispatched the retake.

Your dad is likely to call those in charge of VAR jobsworths. They are, but when the rules are so concise, there’s no room for leeway anywhere. Fans find it frustrating, and rightly so, but the hands of the officials are tied. 

VAR has flagged problems with the game and instead people acknowledging this and wanting officials to improve and laws to be looked at, they’ve decided the ability to review decisions is the problem. 

The wrongs that have been righted are ignored and the correct decisions overlooked. Without it, for example, Spurs don’t reach a Champions League final.

When matches are worth millions of pounds to a club, having a second look at a decision is for the best. There are teething problems right now but they have nothing to do with the actual technology and everything to do with those writing the laws and the ones carrying out those rules. 

Football needs VAR. Embrace it and the drama surrounding it. 

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