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VAR: The good, the bad and the verdict on use of Video Assistant Referee in the Premier League

VAR made an instant impression on the opening weekend of the Premier League
VAR made an instant impression on the opening weekend of the Premier League

VAR was used for the first time in the Premier League this weekend and we were not short of talking points.

"Something doesn't feel right at the moment when we're watching football," said Danny Murphy on talkSPORT on Monday.

The former Liverpool and Fulham midfielder has a point. He also said that 'if you gave me the choice I'd knock VAR on the head' - maybe that's a bit drastic but it certainly needs some time and patience for its bedding in period.

We look at the pros and cons of the new technology...

The good

The Premier League will have a central VAR control room, as seen during the Russia 2018 World Cup
The Premier League will have a central VAR control room, as seen during the Russia 2018 World Cup

Players will no longer be able to con officials with simulation to win penalties as decisions can be checked and overturned/not given, which makes the fact Miguel Almiron dived for Newcastle against Arsenal all the more baffling.

Almiron, of all people, should know better having played in the MLS which introduced the system in 2017. Not only for simulation though, we often see players conning the referee by feigning injury when replays show there was little or no contact and we can eradicate these little occurrences which bring the game down.

Being fooled by injuries/dives falls into the category of refereeing errors, too. Time and time again we have seen managers spending post-match interviews and press conferences bemoaning a key refereeing decision which cost them points. They cannot complain if the correct calls were made and it was in fact their players who were at fault for a goal rather than the officials. So to stop being able to blame officials can only be a good thing - they are only doing their job in this case.

Offside is offside, a foul is a foul, so if a goal is scored illegally then shouldn't it rightfully be pulled up?

Hawkeye was introduced to the English game's top flight in 2013 and has proved to be an excellent addition to the game. It aids the officials and, although VAR eliminates the human element of refereeing, it helps eradicate those errors in a multi-million pound industry where mistakes can no longer be made.

It must be remembered that this was the first time VAR has been used in the Premier League. It is not going to run smoothly straight away. It probably will not next week. But as officials get fully to grips with it, players and coaching staff get to grips with it, and fans accept it, then it can help develop the game, no doubt.


The bad

One of the many VAR decisions at the London Stadium
One of the many VAR decisions at the London Stadium

'Two minutes celebrating, then you take away that joy. Then the other fans are celebrating a non-goal,' Murphy added on talkSPORT. Playing in the moment could be a thing of the past.

As we saw with Wolves' goal against Leicester on Sunday and infamously Man City's late winner against Spurs in the Champions League last season which was then ruled out, the euphoria of celebrating a goal in the moment could soon be a thing of the past if there is a real possibility of them being disallowed. Players celebrate together, the coaching team do the same on the sidelines, they go back to the halfway line for kick-off only to find out it was for nothing.

For that Wolves goal, it took nearly two minutes to come to a decision. When the Premier League gave VAR the green light, they did not want to take the pace out of the game, yet why did this decision take so long? That is something that needs to be addressed as it slows down games and could easily affect the flow of exciting contests.

There are so many grey areas with the ruling - whether it is body parts offside, players interfering with play and what is an honest tackle and what is reckless. As we touched on in the Premier League podcast, now VAR has been introduced, it is not going anytime soon and the likelihood is that the more officials and teams adjust to the system, new rules will inevitably be brought in to clear these things up.


VAR in action

  • Liverpool 4-1 Norwich: Five Checks | None Overturned
  • West Ham 0-5 Man City: Seven Checks | Two Overturned
  • Burnley 3-0 Saints: Six Checks | None Overturned
  • C Palace 0-0 Everton: One Check | None Overturned
  • Watford 0-3 Brighton: Six Checks | None Overturned
  • Bournemouth 1-1 Sheff Utd: Six Checks | None Overturned
  • Spurs 3-1 Aston Villa: Seven Checks | None Overturned
  • Leicester 0-0 Wolves: One Check | One Overturned
  • Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal: One Check | None Overturned
  • Man U 4-0 Chelsea: Six Checks | None Overturned

An example from the weekend which needs to be stopped sooner rather than later - Roberto Pereyra of Watford took a free-kick around 25 yards from goal. He attempted to curl it around the Brighton wall but it appeared to strike Glenn Murray's hand. The referee allowed play to continue, obviously with the intention of coming back to it when play next comes to a stop. Pereyra ran towards Craig Pawson and berated the official, shouting and doing the VAR signal with his hands. Easily a form of dissent which went unpunished and it is something you do not want to see every week as we have seen on occasions in the Champions League.

On the subject of play continuing until the ball goes out of play, in this instance Brighton could easily have counter attacked and scored before play came to a stop and the penalty decision was reviewed. From scoring and celebrating at one end, they could easily see it disallowed and have a penalty given against them at the other and this would only add confusion and probably ruin the experience for the thousands of spectators in attendance.


The verdict

VAR was never going to be an instant success, we have seen in the Champions League how the game is still adapting.

Some sports use technology well, some don't. But tennis's use of challenges could be the way to go with VAR. It would allow managers a certain amount of opportunities to appeal a decision per game, where they lose a challenge if they are incorrect and keep it if an appeal is successful. It would help stop them complaining while letting the game flow for the majority of the game and allowing the referee to oversee the majority of it - as they have for over a century.

It is not going anywhere anytime soon, but the product will get better with time and the sooner all involved are singing from the same hymn sheet, the better. The game is too expensive nowadays for bad decisions to fall on officials, but too entertaining to be stopped by VAR reviews every few minutes, so there has to be a balance.

British people do not like change but when it can benefit the game in the long run, they have got to embrace it and, with time, we probably will. Whether we like it or not, it's here to stay. So how we use it to enhance the experience it is the big challenge.


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Most Read Football

Joelinton scores for Newcastle against Tottenham1

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