By Tony Attwood
Why did the Premier League introduce VAR a year later than most other leagues?
And why is its introduction in England causing so much dissent even though the officials had so much more time to get it sorted than most of the rest of Europe?
Two perfectly reasonable questions it seems to me, and yet not questions that are being asked.
Which is odd, because not many people would argue that VAR has been a huge success in the Premier League. In fact, with referees refusing en masse to look at the pitch side monitors that exist and which are used in virtually all other leagues, PGMO has, as ever gone its own way. And a very odd way it is. And again we might ask, “why?”
The idea of VAR was that if an issue wasn’t clear they could have a quick look at a monitor and get an extra view then trot back within seconds and give a decision. But no, that’s not how it works in England. What we have is Arsenal being denied a third goal against Palace because…. well make up your own reason.
In fact, VAR, in terms of Arsenal, is giving us more wrong decisions, not fewer wrong decisions. Of course, when the media complain about VAR they become all coy, not wishing to break the secret code they have signed up to with PGMO that the referee must never ever be criticised. So the media says that the current use of VAR (upon which they have to say something since it is the thing many of us are choosing to talk about all day long) results in (as the Guardian coyly put it) “spontaneity is being sucked out of matches.”
As opposed to “VAR is being used as a way to justify utterly wrong decisions and to stop certain teams winning.” Of course no one in the media is allowed to think that (otherwise the Thought Police will come and remove them from their beds in the middle of the night before exporting them to Venezuala).
But the Guardian did get as far as saying, “it is introducing travesties into games instead of clearing them up.” And that’s not a bad start. It was a shame it was just a start with no finish, but still, it was something, no matter how small.
So the media won’t say that VAR is being used to put forward a decision that is utterly wrong (which it clearly was in the match against Palace) but that it is a “nitpickers’ charter”. It’s a bit like calling the Nazis a “bunch of hearty roughs”.
In fact that Guardian’s analysis went into total weird land when they looked at the issue saying that “The couple of major stadiums still without big screens – Anfield and Old Trafford – will just have to install them. It’s called progress.”
Err, no guys. At the Palace game, nothing, nothing and nothing came up on the screens at the ground at all, as Arsenal were deprived of a legitimate victory. Screens are irrelevant. Stop changing the subject to talk about irrelevances. It is why increasing numbers of us have stopped believing what you publish.
And then, as if clearly realising that they were making no case at all, at that point in the article they put the headline
Then they went on to say, “The other aspect of VAR that urgently needs discussing is the number of perfectly good goals that have been disallowed for microscopic measurements of offside. The technology is at its most nitpicky and intrusive in this area, and there is simply no need for replays to be pored over again and again just to establish that someone was ahead of the offside line by a knee or a big toe.”
But at the Palace game, Arsenal’s third goal was disallowed for nothing that any of us could see on the big screen when we got home and watched it again on Match of the Day. Even the MotD presenters could not see anything wrong!
(Shall I repeat that: Even the MotD presenters could not see anything wrong! And this is MotD presenting a discussion on a disallowed Arsenal goal. That has never happened before).
Now it would have been good if the Guardian had then considered who has implemented VAR in this curious way, considering the hyper-secret PGMO and their reasons for delaying the implementation of VAR for a year after it came in, in the rest of Europe. But they didn’t.
For suddenly they sought to distract our attention from VAR with the notion that the “offside law itself needs looking at,” before taking us back to an issue involving Keane at Brighton.
And why do that? Because they were getting awfully close to saying Arsenal were robbed of two points, and that PGMO has totally screwed up, for reasons that will not become clear at this point.
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