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The words fans dread seeing after their team have managed to put the ball in the net. The only thing that could make this any worse is when the eventual VAR decision is up for debate on whether the conclusion was correct or not.  

When VAR was introduced we thought these days of match-changing decisions being arguably incorrect were over. But they seem to be happening at an ever increasing rate even with the help of technology.  

This weekend’s fixtures alone had a series of VAR decisions that have caused fury and confusion, and rightly so. In the game between Manchester United and Chelsea, Scott McTominay was penalised for grappling his man and pulling him down in the box from a corner which resulted in a penalty for Chelsea. But then in the Arsenal v Southampton game the next day, Gabriel Jesus was pulled down inside the box by Duje Caleta-Car in much the same way as Armando Broja the day before. However, this time around the penalty call was waved away and Jesus was told to get to his feet. This example has only gone on to confuse people more as to the use of VAR as the decisions made are so inconsistent, like in this instance where two almost identical situations have completely different conclusions.  

Another instance of VAR’s inconsistencies can be seen in the decision making regarding handball this season. Earlier in the season, Marcus Rashford was denied a goal for “handball” after the ball ricocheted and barely hit his arm. While the ball admittedly did come off his arm, the contact was extremely minimal and his arms appeared in a natural position while jumping over the defender. When this is then compared to an incident that happened in the West Ham v Bournemouth game this weekend it becomes even less clear as to why these decisions happen, and how VAR is working. In the build-up to Kurt Zouma’s opener, Thilo Kehrer looked as if he almost made a volleyball pass from a cross into the box. But after a review, the goal was given anyway. 

With these controversial decisions occurring in what feels like every game, the question has to be asked: Has VAR improved the game of football at all?  

The answer has to be an overwhelming no!  

Prior to the Video Assistants being used, there was almost an acceptance that human error could mean a decision wrongfully went against your team. But this came with the knowledge that you were likely to get a decision wrongly go your way as well. Fans, for the most part, had seemingly accepted this fact.  

Then VAR came along and there was an expectancy that these incorrect decisions wouldn’t occur anymore. As we’ve seen, this just has not happened and it almost feels as if there are more controversial decisions made with VAR than there ever have been prior to its introduction.  

The only thing VAR has seemed to change about football is that it’s given the fans widespread knowledge that the standard of officiating in the Premier League simply isn’t good enough.  

While the answer to this situation isn’t to scrap VAR in its entirety, I do believe that the way it’s implemented needs a change.  

First and foremost, the rules that VAR judges on need to be made clearer to the fans so that there can be some form of understanding on why certain decisions have been made. Such as the ‘Clear and Obvious error’ being one of the requirements for VAR to overturn a decision, but this seems to have no standing anymore with even the slightest and most obscure “faults” being ruled on by VAR.  

The referees responsible for using the technology also need to hold more accountability for incorrect decisions that they are responsible for making. They also need more training for the role they are undertaking, with an aim to speed up the process of making correct decisions.  

If these changes, or any similar, can’t be implemented and the use of VAR doesn’t become more successful in the near future then the use of the technology should be scrapped until it can be used properly. Otherwise the enjoyment and soul of the game will continue to be sucked away as it has been since it’s introduction.  

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April 2024