The scourge of modern football

VAR is surely the most hated and despised acronym in football right now!

As football fans across the county know only too well, we can all be entertained and enthralled by two teams going head-to-head for 90+ minutes on field of action, only for all that to be swept aside once the final whistle blows - if VAR has been called upon during the proceedings.


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It’s a fair bet the outcome of that off-field decision – or decisions – will be what most people are talking about post match.

Recounting the introduction of VAR to our top league back in 2020 the Premier League’s own ‘History of VAR’ states: “Premier league match officials can make mistakes and these mistakes can have an impact on the outcome of a match.” No argument there so far.

“Because technology lets people see immediately on TV or on their phones that mistakes have been made, why not use that technology to help what is happening on the pitch?” All sounds common sense on the face of it. Only the theory behind the introduction of VAR is proving to be a very long way from what we are seeing play out in practice!

Last Sunday’s encounter with Aston Villa is a prime example of how VAR’s involvement in the match eclipsed what was an excellent game of football between two well match sides. Villa have been enjoying a superb season and sit loftily in fourth place in the Premier League, with genuine claims for going on to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

West Ham currently sit three places lower than Villa in seventh spot – a position if maintained would offer us European football for a fourth consecutive season. Both clubs of course remain in this season’s European competitions. Unai Emry has done a fine job in the midlands, and whether you’re 'Moyes In' or 'Moyes Out' it has to be recognised we are enjoying consistently unprecedented times at West Ham.

Sunday’s match-up, as we now know, finished all-square. But when referee Jarred Gillett’s whistle blew for the final time the fall-out from VAR’s interventions were already stealing the show.

Two goals originally given by Gillett - who happens to be one of our least favourite officials – were subsequently chalked off by the day’s faceless crew at Stockley Park. Michail Antonio’s second ‘goal’ of the afternoon chalked off by a handball not penalised by Gillett.

This was later followed by a Jarrod Bowen effort being called ‘foul’ – not against him but against Tomas Soucek – who was judged to have ‘willingly’ nudged the ball onto Bowen’s head with his flailing right arm. The technology apparently proving Soucek’s forward momentum was deliberate – and not simply a direct result of the player desperately lunging through a melee of bodies.

Was it clear and obvious? Well hardly either of those as the check took an eternity to complete. As respected Times journalist Henry Winter highlighted in a post later on X (formerly Twitter): “5mins 37secs for a VAR delay is extraordinary. It’s ruining games, destroying the flow. Cap it at 2mins or stick with the on field decision. If VAR cannot decide in 2mins then it’s surely not a clear and obvious error!”

In the end of course, Gillett made the final call on the Bowen ‘goal’. After being invited to view the monitor his change of heart took a mere 30 seconds to decide. Strange that!


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So technology didn’t make the final decision. It wasn’t the definitive decider. It provided the pictures, but the interpretation of the ‘evidence’ was down to human judgement. Unlike goal-line technology which is definitive. Or even those infamous cross-field lines used in making offside decisions – the big decisions are still down to individuals – and therefore open to accusations of favouritism.

Would that last ditch ‘goal’ have been chalked off if the benefactors had been say Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United or similar such so-called big clubs? Many football fans are adamant in thinking not!

What about our third disallowed goal of that afternoon? The one that never reached the VAR stage because Mr Gillett decided to blow his whistle early, before events had fully unfolded. Post match scrutiny of that incident suggested there was minimal contact between Antonio and Martinez – certainly not enough to warrant a foul.

Likewise there was no contact with Kudus’ hand when the ball rebounded to him before he dispatched it into the Villa net. General consensus was if VAR had been called upon it would highly likely have ruled that goal would ironically have stood.

I have no problem with the man in the middle making the call – rightly or wrongly – and sticking with it. At least we all knew within seconds the goal had been ruled out. We might not have liked it but the game quickly restarted and we all moved on.

I recently saw the last 15 minutes of a Championship game between Cardiff City and Ipswich Town. The Suffolk side had taken the lead on 79 minutes and looked to be heading for victory. But Cardiff equalised on 90+5 minutes and then won the game on 90+10.

Both goals were pretty scrappy affairs and both, I am certain, would have come under VAR scrutiny had the game been a Premier League encounter. It wasn’t! So when the referee had decided in play both goals were good and stood the instant response from both players and fans was unbridled delight!

No choked emotions. No fearing the worst. Just players and supporters celebrating as one. The way it always used to be. The way it still should be. The way many of us have sadly forgotten.

VAR was introduced to stop people talking about referees and refereeing decisions – and talk about football instead. Judged on recent events, that aim has failed miserably.

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