Is VAR fit for purpose?

Published on 10 October 2023 at 13:00

When VAR was introduced to the Premier League in 2019, its aim was to assist referees and reduce the amount of controversial decisions being made. Four years on, it appears to have had the complete opposite effect. After the muck up of all muck ups at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last week, it feels as if VAR has never been under as much scrutiny as it is now.



In a heated clash at the top of the table, a ten man Liverpool side had their backs against the wall against Tottenham. Because of this, it was a bit of a shock when Luis Diaz expertly put the ball in Spurs' net following a through ball from Mo Salah. However, the Colombian was adjudged to be offside by the on-field referee, Simon Hooper. Naturally, a tight call like that went to VAR, which took a surprisingly short time to make the decision not to give the goal.


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When replays showed that Diaz was actually onside, it's fair to say that the video assistant referee on the day, Darren England, to put it in VAR terms, made a clear and obvious error.

Audio footage, which can only be described as comical, has since surfaced which shows England completing the VAR check as he thought the original decision was given as a goal. By the time the replay operator (not even his assistant VAR)  informed him of his error, play had already restarted so nothing could be done to rectify his mistake.

Liverpool eventually lost the match 2-1, prompting manager, Jurgen Klopp to call for a replay of the game, although with the amount of dodgy decisions VAR has caused in the past, I've got a feeling that the other 19 managers in the league would feel slightly aggrieved if this request was granted. Although, to be fair to Klopp, in a game with such high stakes, an apology from the PGMOL isn't enough.



What the Diaz incident shows us is no matter how much technology is involved in the modern game, human error is something that can never be eliminated.

But to make sure something like this never happens again, we first have to look at the quality of officiating. Jamie Carragher made the comment after the game that Howard Webb and the PGMOL should look abroad to improve the standard of refereeing. This seems like a reasonable stance, if the Premier League can attract the best players in the world it should be able to attract the best officials as well.


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Accountability is also something we need to see more of. It is very rare for the PGMOL to release the audio footage between the VAR and on-field referee but it's something we need to see a lot more of. If not, it just gives the league's conspiracy theorists more of a platform.

There are still some issues with the decisions VAR actually look at as well. An example of this was in the title clash between Arsenal and Manchester City on Sunday, when already booked City midfielder, Matteo Kovacic made another late challenge on Declan Rice but was not given a red by referee Michael Oliver.

Replays showed the incident was a clear yellow card offence yet VAR could not intervene as it can only be implemented for straight red offences. This is something PGMOL surely must amend, if a player gets a red card for a second bookable offence or a straight red it still has the same outcome on the match, so why should VAR only intervene on one condition?



Whether it's Jurgen Klopp asking for replays, Paul Merson screaming at Mike Dean on Soccer Saturday or Jamie Carragher uncharacteristically talking sense, VAR will always give us talking points. However, after four years of talking points, at what stage do we say enough is enough?

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