The general thought going into the season with VAR in play was that penalties would be hard to come by. It was meant to come in and eradicate any chance of a diving player.
Instead, however, the introduction of the technology has led to a record-breaking amount of penalties for Manchester United. It does have to be said, though, that when it comes to penalty decisions, unless it is clear and obvious, they are left to the referees to deal with.
Of course, the main issue with this is that nobody really knows what ‘clear and obvious’ means, leading to mass confusion on and off the pitch. It also means that when a penalty incident is not given by the referee, VAR cannot get involved no matter how wrong the decision is.
It’s all a very confusing way to do things when considering how the technology flourished in the World Cup.
Most controversial decisions
VAR has been the culprit of some pretty awful decisions during its Premier League tenure. Manchester United’s opening goal against Liverpool was a particularly bad day the office for the technology. Despite a foul in the build-up on Divock Origi, Marcus Rashford’s opening strike did not get chalked off after a VAR check.
The poor decisions didn’t stop there, however. Being offside by an armpit became a thing when Roberto Firmino’s goal against Aston Villa was ruled out before many others went onto suffer the same dreadful fate. And, if armpits weren’t bad enough, Pedro Neto’s goal for Wolves against Liverpool was ruled out because of an offside toe in the build-up.
It was at the Emirates, however, when VAR really exposed its goal killing instincts. Sokratis thought he had the winner when he headed home against Crystal Palace, and rightfully so. The Greek defender did everything as expected; the goal from the set play seemed as fair as ever.
Yet, those in the VAR room could not help themselves and eventually ruled that Sokratis had fouled his man upon scoring. The decision remains a bizarre one and one that sums up VAR.
Technology drama in the first game post lockdown
Technology in sports has to earn the trust of the fans, pundits and the players taking to the pitch. And that’s exactly what goal-line technology has done since its introduction in 2012. It came in, and has done its job without any issues until the first game post lockdown in the Premier League.
The situation occurred when the Aston Villa keeper, Nyland, dropped the ball over the line following a Sheffield United freekick. Usually, when this happens, the referee’s watch would buzz and let them know that the ball has crossed the line. This time, however, that did not happen.
Not to worry, though, because VAR was there to fix the problem, right? Well, think again. Those in the VAR room sat there silently while replays hit our screens of the ball crossing the line.
Yet, still, the technology and those using it didn’t get involved. Instead, the score remained level, leaving Aston Villa with a precious point to take away; a point that would end up taking them to survival.
The simple thing would have been to watch the replays and award the goal instead of reacting with silence. It was a classic VAR and Premier League mistake, almost a laughable one too.
As we watch a mistake of this calibre week in week out, that laugh soon turns to a furious frown at the clearly incapable officials and VAR program. Perhaps it is time to retrain the officials on how the program is meant to work or change the program itself.
After all, the game has changed enough since they would have taken the test. So, why not put them through their paces in an updated test? The test will evaluate their knowledge on VAR, and decide whether or not they know what to do in certain situations. It will at least give the Premier League some indication of the effectiveness of those officiating the game.
Or, perhaps we scrap the technology altogether. It clearly hasn’t worked, so why not scrap it? Getting rid of it would save the time consumed waiting for a decision, spare the confusion for those offsides by a toe, and, ultimately, make the games more enjoyable.
Overall, VAR gets a disappointing score of 3/10 from me after a disastrous debut campaign. And that’s being generous! It has been absolutely useless at times. It has its positives sometimes, yes, but those do not get any near the constant negatives. All the fans want is the goals to once more flow without interruption. Is that too much to ask for? Or, do we need a VAR check on that?