Bacon’s Bites: So, VAR in football - what do you think?

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte gestures on the touchline during the Emirates FA Cup, Third Round Repl

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte gestures on the touchline during the Emirates FA Cup, Third Round Replay at Stamford Bridge, against Norwich. He was left unimpressed with VAR. - Credit: PA

Mike Bacon takes at look at how the Video Assistant Referee is working in football as asks, is there too much technology in the game now?

Well, that didn’t take long!

For the Video Assistant Referee to come under fire from football managers and fans alike.

Am I surprised?

No, not really.


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I’ve rather kept my powder dry on this topic, not wishing to be labelled one of the ‘dinosaurs’ who doesn’t ‘move with the times’ – a bit like 3G pitches, but that’s another topic.

As soon as I heard about the VAR system and what it might entail, red flags were raised for me.

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Let me say first of all, technology very much has a place in modern football. The technology that allows a referee to know that the ball has crossed the line has been spot on.

A view of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system pitchside.

A view of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system pitchside. - Credit: PA

Indeed, Ipswich fans are already grateful for its use, Callum Connolly’s goal at Derby County standing after the ball just crossed the line, before being cleared. Tough for an assistant referee to spot that at full speed.

Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ in the World Cup 2010 against Germany was a display of how desperate technology was needed to eradicate this – match changing moments – it’s now happening – good news.

So, we take another technological step and move onto VAR.

There are only four instances VAR can be used.

– Awarding goals.

– Penalty decisions.

– Straight red cards (not second yellow cards).

Callum Connolly scores at Derby after a 'bleep' in the ref's ear told him the ball had crossed the l

Callum Connolly scores at Derby after a 'bleep' in the ref's ear told him the ball had crossed the line. Good use of technology. Picture Pagepix

– Cases of mistaken identity.

Seems simple enough, but already we have issues.

In the Chelsea v Norwich game on Wednesday night, referee Graham Scott refused to award the Blues a penalty after Willian appeared to be tripped in the box by City’s Timm Klose.

‘No penalty’, said Scott.

Replays suggested it might have been a spot kick.

VAR wasn’t used though, because the VAR officials deemed it ‘unclear’. There was lots of shouting and screaming after the game over Scott’s decision.

“I think the situation was very clear. I watched and this is a penalty, very clear,” said Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.

England captain Nasser Hussain waits for a third umpire decision during the second day of the Fourth

England captain Nasser Hussain waits for a third umpire decision during the second day of the Fourth Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Cricket is a slower pace than football and the breaks to get decisions right don't seem to impact on the speed of the game. - Credit: PA

Well of course it was ‘very clear’ to him.

That’s the beauty of football, managers who only see what they want. Drama, controversy, opinions. I love it, we all love it.

But I back Scott.

Football is all about that instant decision, an interpretation of what you have just seen.

Refs will get it wrong, but they will more often than not, get it right.

So, under VAR, what could have happened at Stamford Bridge?

Well, if it had been used, the game would have stopped. Everyone would have stood around for at least a minute while the replay of Klose’s tackle was played over and over and I can assure you, over again.

Tennis players like Andy Murray, a double Wimbledon champion, have benefitted from Hawkeye.

Tennis players like Andy Murray, a double Wimbledon champion, have benefitted from Hawkeye. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The game standing still and at the end of it all, whatever the outcome, still some, or even many, would have disagreed with the decision.

The big fear I have is that both VAR referees and referees on the pitch, who let’s be honest get enough stick as it is, are going to take the easy option.

They will start referring everything to VAR.

Where will it stop?

I mean, come on, how much holding and pushing from players do we see at corners? You could refer to VAR at every corner for a penalty decision if a referee wanted to be pedantic.

And what about ‘offsides’ that are called but the ball ends up in the back of the net?

What if a player is played thorough 40 yards out and is bearing in on goal? The assistant referee puts his flag up, defenders stop and the attacker goes through and slots the ball home.

Then VAR proves – and tells the referee – he wasn’t offside at all! But the defender stopped because he saw the flag. He’ll claim he may have got there to put in a tackle.

So many issues.

Football has its faults, but one of the main reasons it is the biggest sport on the planet is because it divides opinions.

If we are not careful VAR will sanitise it – and don’t think VAR will get everything right.

Cricket enjoys the best use of technology, but cricket is far slower than football.

Rugby also uses technology, but mainly for ‘groundings’ on the try line – that’s point-scoring, and crucial.

‘Hawkeye’ in tennis can tell that the ball is ‘out’ within a matter of seconds. Job done!

I know it’s early days, but I fear football will have too many stoppages, referees not wanting to be on the back pages, lambasted for not using VAR.

While VAR referees are lambasted for not using the technology afforded them.

Already the sight of players motioning the ‘TV box’ sign to the referee, similar to the way many used to do so with ‘yellow cards’, is irritating.

Yes, let’s move with the times.

But let’s not use technology simply because we have it.

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