A bridge too VAR?

So now we have it. Sane, intelligent football fans donít want VAR even though it is getting decisions right.

Not all fans, of course, but a far larger proportion than anyone expected. Many love it, and I fully respect their views. I should agree, but I find I can't.

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Surely the surprise - certainly to the refereeing community and football authorities generally - was that now we have seen VAR operating, there seems to be a groundswell of disapproval, disenchantment, call it what you like. "But we are getting the decisions right," was the mystified wail.

I don't often agree with Danny Murphy, he's a bit too cocky for a journeyman footballer who was dead lucky to be given lifts to Liverpool's Academy training by Michael Owen's dad - and then fortunate to play alongside the likes of Owen, Steven Gerrard, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler.

How lucky can a bang-average player be? Anfield's very own water carrier.

But Murphy has been ranting on about the loss of football's soul, the destruction of the very essence of why we fell in love with the game. The loss of spontaneity, that instant high that celebrating a goal gives you. The reasons for being there to share that excitement with your mates.

There is a culture to watching live football, it's been there for over 100 years, and if Saturday at the London Stadium is anything to go by, that culture, that atmosphere, is being swept away.

Now we sit, some even slumped, and watch a giant TV screen. The moment is gone. What is the point of actually attending a match just to be extras in a soap opera designed for those sitting at home on the couch? The enjoyment of us fans, the ones who shell out to watch our team, is being sacrificed really to the great gods of TV.

That's Sky Sports and their broadcasting rivals, to you and me.

All around me on Saturday in the BML were fans bemused by the stoppages. Not so much the decisions coming from a portacabin off the M4 in West Drayton, but the way we could all see the game going. Clinical, cold, deflating, waiting, waiting.

Even the Manchester City players stopped celebrating goals. I assume West Ham's players would have felt that way too, if they'd actually scored a goal, but that's another story.

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I have to admit that when VAR was first born, I was supportive. Fed up with rubbish referees making mistakes, who could forget the season when so many decisions went against us it cost the club European qualification?

And it took a long, anguished train ride home - well over three hours on a Virgin cattle truck from Euston where three trains to Manchester had been cancelled thanks to the usual stuff like flooding and signal problems - which meant three times as many people poured onto the last available train north.

After lengthy discussions with my son, that journey ended with me deciding I wanted VAR binned totally. Never to be seen again. He didn't agree, and he looked at his dad with that look youngsters bestow on old folk they have to tolerate.

But I had left the LS bemused, feeling divorced from what I had been watching. I was utterly deflated and I could not work out why I felt that way. It wasn't just that Man City had been brilliant and administered their customary spanking. Surely this was the brave new world I had wanted?

But at what cost? And it slowly became clearer. Sport has to have human error to make it worth watching. Players make mistakes and so too must referees. I don't want to see Mike Dean tapping his ear piece and smirking.

I want decisions made the way they have always been, regardless, by the man on the pitch and his linesmen. Ol, I accept this is a Luddite approach. And I'm a fully paid up member, I think streaming is something to do with salmon fishing.

But what we have been given now is a fraud, anyway. There has been a summer charm offensive where everybody from fans, players, managers and administrators have been invited to West Drayton to see how wonderful the VAR machine is.

I don't doubt it, but there were 80 matches played over the weekend in the top seven leagues in England, and only ten matches were the subject of VAR. And that is not going to change. The day when 17 camera angles are available at Southend, Orient and Stevenage is a long, long way off.

We were conned into believing the change was for the good of all football, it's future. Well that is never going to be the case, it is just for the elite.

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The rest of football managed to survive without VAR, non-league's multitude of games took place. They had bad decisions, good decisions, mistakes I am sure. Just like it has always been.

The change, in my view, has come because of the constant highlighting of mistakes by Sky, for a decade or more now. The new technology is there, they insist, and I am sure it comes at a cost. Someone is making money.

It's used in other sports. Yes. But do I really want it in football? I am no longer sure. It can't even be 100 per cent perfect. The Raheem Sterling disallowed goal was a nonsense, ruled out by the width of his armpit hair.

Interestingly, Gary Lineker, an avowed supporter of VAR, turned devil's advocate on MOTD, pointing out it was almost impossible to judge offside and the exact impact of boot on ball with the position of a player.

If we are now down to a hair's breadth at the sharp end, decisions have to be perfect when the forward pass is made. Alan Shearer called Lineker "pedantic", which was no answer to the question.

We have only seen VAR operate in Cup ties, finals and world events. Saturday was the beginning of its involvement in a bread and butter full league programme. The French league will go the same way in a couple of weeks.

This is different, because it affects us all, not just our womens' team being robbed of a place in the finals, not the destination of a European Cup. I always wondered how it would feel when it was my team involved, now I know. And I didn't like it.

When I first started watching football back in the 1950s, there was no TV and referees were fat little men in ridiculously long shorts who didn't run about much. But their word was law, few argued. Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney, a little later Bobby Moore, just got on with it.

The argument now is that there is so much money involved in football, we have to eradicate mistakes. I'm not sure that I have ever agreed with that and it's fair to say England would never have won the World Cup if VAR had been around. An Azerbaijani linesman said Geoff Hurst's shot was a goal and that was the end of it.

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And why are so many decisions so subjective? Manuel Lanzini was impeded in the box by Rodri having caught him in possession. It wasn't reviewed although having seen it since, the Manchester City new boy didn't touch the ball, only Lanzini.

Then there was a foul on Seb Haller in the build-up to City's fifth goal and again Dean did nothing. Just like he did nothing to stop Rodri, one hell of a player, kicking lumps out of Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson for the first half hour. Two yellow cards in that lot, I felt.

Every decision influences a match, not just the ones the men in green shirts in West Drayton decide to consider. In the NFL all decisions are reviewed, and that's possible because the game is primarily one of set-pieces, very little time is wasted.

Unless we have games involving sides managed by Neil Warnock and big Sam - non-stop set pieces - you can't review everything in football. Yes there was some confusion on Saturday over the retaken penalty, and yes Declan Rice's involvement meant it was correct to retake it.

But when was the last time you saw encroachment punished? It is almost as if they are looking for ways to disallow goals in order to prove how clever the equipment is.

Rugby referees say 'give me a reason to not allow this try'. Football is now asking, 'show me how I can disallow this goal'.

Match-going fans may well see themselves now as irrelevant to the action, with their enjoyment and passion no longer being considered worthy. Maybe a bit unfair that, but the frustration was obvious on Saturday all around me, the involvement just drained away.

But it's here to stay and I feel that is sad. It's not the equipment or the decisions... and I never felt would hear myself saying this, but I would prefer Mike Dean made those decisions, and his linesman, good or bad. It's how it has always been.

So stop trying to tell me this is for the good of all football, it's not. It's for the good of Sky and for football's elite, whose matches will now be controlled differently to everybody else.

It's no longer, "who's the bastard in the black", but "who's the prick in the Portacabin"...

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