Honestly, some people are never bloody satisfied. In recent weeks, those who once shouted the virtues of VAR from the rooftops are now crying for it to be ditched. The ref can’t be heard, the crowd have no idea why VAR is being consulted, they don’t feel part of the process, and it’s taking too long to arrive at a decision leaving pampered millionaires standing around in the cold for up to three minutes! Now I don’t know about you, but none this seems reason enough to jettison what football has been crying out for ever since it kicked lace up footballs in to touch. Simple solutions involve miking up the ref who would turn it on as and when VAR is being consulted and explain why, and the incident in question could be re-played on large screens enabling fans to watch it themselves. It’s ironic that the same people who screamed blue murder for the introduction of goal line technology are now saying that they would rather the ref make a complete balls up of a decision, resulting in an unjust last day relegation battle disaster, then proceed with a system that can potentially consign such disasters to an early bath. Really?
And they argue that getting the ‘rub of the green’ is preferable to the delays in the game that VAR will bring about. This is ridiculous because the wrong rub of the green on the final day relegation decider could result in the aforementioned scenario with huge financial consequences for the wronged team. And every person who ever utters football’s most ridiculous cliché, that ‘bad referee decisions even themselves out over the course of the season,’ should be forced to watch the 1986 World Cup match between England and Argentina every day for the rest of their lives!
Granted, the time it currently takes to get a decision using VAR is an issue, and there is concern at players having to wait around for a decision, which is a bit rich when one considers the time they spend standing around while their fellow professionals feign injury.
Moreover, they complain, instant goal celebrations will be put on hold until the crowd are satisfied that VAR isn’t going to be used to rule it out and kill this delight of the game. More nonsense. In Rugby Union, tries are greeted with ecstatic celebrations only for the crowd to learn that the TMO is whispering into the referee’s ear about a forward pass four phases ago. The incident is played on the big screen. The offence is obvious to all. No try. No problem.
But the point which is being missed, by those who are trying to kid us that they would prefer a bad refereeing decision to the continuance of VAR, is that every Saturday thousands of fans are heading home after a match feeling cheated because of such decisions which referees are never asked to explain, and the unjust wound has salt rubbed into it when the Match of the Day pundits express their disbelief that the goal was ever allowed. In the future one set of fans will wait with baited breath for VAR to rescue them from another refereeing howler.
In this year’s World Cup in Russia VAR is going to be used. And in my World Cup fantasy, England are in the semis, and Germany’s last minute equaliser against England is ruled out by VAR due to the ball being pushed into the goal by a German hand. It’s only a guess of course, but can you forsee any complaints coming from the anti VAR brigade about England’s players having to stand around for two minutes in the sunshine for the correct decision? A decision that puts them into the final. And can you see them feeling sorry for the thousands of German fans who just thought their team had equalised? No, neither can I. VAR isn’t perfect yet. But it is, for my money, better than UFR, which under the new system will become largely extinct. And for the uninitiated among you UFR stands for ‘Useless F*****g Referee.’

9th March 2018