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By Tony Attwood
ESPN has done an analysis by club, of decisions overturned by VAR, And to be clear, as they say, “This relates purely to overturned decisions, so penalty appeals that stay with the on-field referee are not included.”
Their overall summary is that there have been 22 decisions overturned (with just one overturn rejected). This lead to seven goals being given, but nine being disallowed, six penalties were awarded, two penalty awards were overturned.
If we look at the Arsenal situation this is what they report that there have been six VAR interventions, three of which went in Arsenal’s favour, and three against. To give just two examples from one game (against Manchester United on 3 September) the report reads…
“Incident: Penalty cancelled, no foul on Kai Havertz by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 60 minutes – AGAINST
Incident: Alejandro Garnacho goal disallowed for offside, 88 minutes – FOR”
Which raises the question: who is getting something out of VAR and who isn’t?
The top beneficiaries are Nottingham Forest who overall have ended up with three decisions in their favour, Brentford have a score of +2, as do Manchester City.
The clubs that are losing out are Manchester United (with three decisions overall against them – and remember this is the net figure showing awards in their favour minus awards against them). Also losing are Burnley with two against.
But elsewhere there is another, perhaps more important issue that is lurking under the radar but which was recently highlighted by the Blick news service.
They report that injuries in Europe’s five biggest leagues increased by 20% in 2021/22, according to research by British insurance broker Howden. And according to the latest annual report from players’ union Fifpro, 53% of players said they had been injured or felt more likely to be injured due to schedule constraints.
So if VAR isn’t make too much of a difference in the Premier League, and if PGMO’s top dogs continue to go their own merry way, with their home/away bias is still in place, is anything likely to change?
Certainly, Alexander Bielefeld, director of global policy and strategic relations in the players’ trade union FIFPRO says there is another topic on which they have been “sounding the alarm on the subject for four years.”
What he is talking about is the “Don’t complain just play” culture that exists in football when it comes to the health of the players. The union’s argument is that “in other professions which require additional working time, … additional rest and additional leave are required.”
The point is made that the clubs are increasing medical support to allow “players to return to the game faster, to be more resilient to reach new limits.” But such an approach does not account for the long-term physical and mental issues that are raised.
FIFPRO is now arguing pushing to “force a greater rotation of players”, he adds, “because it is clear that we do not lack players in our industry, and there are many who would like to play more.
The union is also calling for the introduction of a minimum rest period of four weeks between two seasons and a two-week break in the middle of the season.
Of course such luxuries as six weeks off during the year will not be allowed by Fifa and Uefa who are forever introducing more and more tournaments to exploit football for their own financial gains. As ESPN put it in a different article, from next season, 36 clubs will take part in the Champions League and they will all be in one big league table.
And there is a subsequent point here. Issues such as the growth of the game and the diminution of players’ breaks, these raise little interest in the mainstream media. True there are occasional articles – for example the Economist recently pointed out “The game’s growth is hurting players. It should learn from other sports,” but the mainstream media says little, leaving the all-powerful authorities to plough on doing their own thing.
A similar situation arose with the case of a young player that we have highlighted in the past, who got injured and had his career cut short when the club refused to treat him properly and then inconveniently “lost” his medical records. The mainstream media (which of course endlessly benefits from football as a low-cost source of news) refused to look into such a possible abuse of the player through not giving him the treatment he needed, because it didn’t fit their agenda.
Now on a different front, football is being scheduled on Christmas Eve, putting even more pressure on clubs and players. Which shows us that changes can be made – but they will only happen if they look likely to make more money. The wishes of fans, the safety of the players… these matters have gone.
And the point is that once that has happened, the situation just rolls on getting worse and worse. Fifa and Uefa now behave like authoritarian sovereign states with their own laws that suit those running the show, and the money-making needs of the owners have no relationship to those working in the business, or those who simply want to enjoy the game. Things can only get worse.
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