VAR – What is it good for ?
Guest Post by Mattybhoy
On Wednesday evening , viewers at home and the punters who’d taken out a second mortgage to get a ticket for the former City of Manchester stadium were treated to an exciting Champions League quarter-final tie that contained plenty of thrills and spills but was ultimately soured by a moment of soulless technicality that encapsulated the game’s dour drive for perfectionism.
If it was up to your humble correspondent, ideally neither of the two financially-doped EPL clubs with no real continental pedigree playing last night would be gracing the sanctity of a European Cup semi-final today; but alas, that is the game we have on our hands now.
Christian Eriksen is an excellent professional and a very good player to watch; he helped spearhead a workmanlike Denmark side to the Round of 16 at last year’s World Cup and can be pointed out as one of the reasons for Tottenham developing into genuine Premier League challengers over the last few seasons. Yet last night he made a dreadful error in playing an unconvincing ball back to his own keeper. See, even the great players do that sometimes. Make mistakes.
As it transpired, the ball deflected off Bernardo Silva on its way through, rendering Sergio Agüero offside and the resulting goal invalid, but that wasn’t spotted by either the Turkish referee or his linesman. So for almost an entire minute Man City players, staff and fans were revelling in the sheer ecstasy of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, only for a team of stuffy officials sitting in front of a series of TV screens to snatch that away from them.
This, in essence, is where the flaw of VAR lies. It spikes the punch, it spoils the moment, it leaves one always wondering whether what they’re experiencing in those fleeting seconds is too good to be true.
In real time, not one the four officials on the ground saw that offside. If there was a flag up immediately after the ball hit the net, then that’s fair enough. But nobody ever asked for perfection. Fans watch football precisely because of the drama, the mistakes and the occasional sense of injustice that fosters togetherness among their tribe. VAR removes, or attempts to remove that from the game in one fell swoop. One of the greatest appeals of football is that sometimes human error comes into play and has unfortunate consequences. For the most part, the best team will win. Sometimes, luck isn’t on your side and a bad call can ruin a game. That’s just football. That’s life in general. The best laid plans oft go awry. Do we really want every fractional error clarified and corrected retrospectively while a whole stadium holds its breath?
Remember Pierluigi Collina? He used to be able to run a flawless game on his own, through knowledge of the sport and a genuine understanding of players, managers and human emotion in a highly charged atmosphere. He didn’t need off-pitch assistance to lend credence to his authority on it. What we needed were better trained refs in the Collina mould, not box-ticking jobsworths who can rely on a second opinion to get them out of a corner when they need it.
Fans have been blindsided by the corruption scandals at UEFA and FIFA this decade, and some have now come to believe that this is a necessary evil and should just be welcomed with a resigned shrug. Let’s have a quick glance at two of the first things that come to mind when trying to justify VAR; namely South Korea’s highly dubious passage to the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, and Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in 2010. In the first instance, looking back with hindsight, one has to concede that was just naked corruption, topped up with a dose of rank incompetence among the officials FIFA elected to choose for those games. In the second case, the disallowed Lampard goal eventually heralded the advent of goal line technology – each match ball contains a sensor inside, and the ref gets an immediate alert on his watch as to whether the ball has crossed the line.
The decision is immediate, the moment is uninterrupted.
This writer does not claim to have any direct solutions to the problem of corruption at the upper echelons of the game, but I can recognise when the high lords are throwing us a bone to try and keep us happy in the meantime. If VAR is the best they can do, then I’d rather we just stick to the way things were before.
In a weak and blundering attempt to convince viewers that the modern game is still brimming over with romance and last night’s quarter-final is proof; BT commentator Darren Fletcher evoked the names of Bell, Summerbee and Lee who delighted the Maine Road faithful in the 60s and 70s, and legendary Spurs servant Bill Nicholson who oversaw the only two league title wins in that club’s history as a player and a manager. However clumsy the comparison may be, let’s go with it and follow that logic to its conclusion. The (I’m guessing here) 25 to 35,000 ‘real’ Man City fans, those who could actually tell you who Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee were, will today be feeling robbed. Not because they lost a European quarter final tie, but because they’d been allowed to believe that they’d won it, until fusty bureaucracy took it away from them.
You know what VAR is? VAR is Stuart Armstrong not lifting his head up and playing in Andy Robertson down an unguarded left flank at Hampden Park in injury time and instead losing the ball that ultimately ends up with Harry Kane getting an equaliser. Of course England were the better team, and deserved something from the game, probably a win. But I’d rather not have felt the delirium of those two Leigh Griffiths free kicks beating Joe Hart only for that palpable taste of joy to vanish at the death because of one technical inaccuracy.
Video Assisted Refereeing, while borne out of good intentions, does not serve the spirit of the game.
Excellent post mattybhoy and welcome to the blog. I was undecided about VAR till now. I am in complete agreement with yourself that it shouldn’t be brought in. I would never wish that moment of sheer euphoria to be taken out the game for any supporter and that’s what happened on Wednesday night. I don’t support either of Wednesday nights team but I appreciated the sensation that was removed from both sets of fans. I know we have a different issue up here but I still don’t think it should be brought in. Our games could last over 2 hours as they query the linesman and referee decisions. You are so right that we require better refs and they need to come from all over Scotland, not just Lanarkshire. That is simply not healthy.
MATTYBHOY, great post welcome to the blog, ive got mixed feelings about video assisted refereeing ,mainly because if we had had it in 1966 we might not have had to endure all these years of how England won the world cup, and would it help us to get a level playing field in Scotland don’t know, but to be honest if its not broke why fix it.hh.
Thanks for a fine debut post.
You make many salient points that are worthy of detailed discussion.
My gut feeling is the notion of the “spirit of the game.”
The perfectly imperfect scenario.
Your post makes a very valid point about unnecessary interfere in the natural flow or beauty of the game but that assumes that the spirit of the game’s hadn’t already been corrupted by cheating.
The wilful mismanagement of key events in a game to have an adverse influence on the result.
In Scotland the administration of the game from top to bottom is suspect. I believe we are nowhere near the luxury of contemplating whether to introduce VAR.
It’s a necessity.
The terms of reference are a problem. John Beaton’s disgraceful performance at Ibrox for example? Could VAR deter an individual like Beaton who clearly cheated and allowed Sevco players to assault Celtic players?
Could it be used to protect the personal safety of players from individuals intent in causing injury where the referee fails?
Andrew Dallas’ four penalty awards at Ibrox?
In Scotland where credibility and competence of the officials is so questionable something has to be done.
There is no trust on or off the park.
We didn’t have Pierluigi Collina. We had Hugh Dallas. We have endured years of organised, systemic cheating on and off the pitch.
Transparent checks and balances are needed throughout the game. VAR won’t solve the problem but it might introduce something which is pretty revolutionary…
We need to make the it more difficult to cheat.
Thanks for posting. A really thought provoking and enjoyable read.
Great post MattyBhoy, not that I agree with you.
I am with TGM on this, anything, however slight, however long it takes to decide, anything that will take the cheating and bias away from referees and officials with an agenda has to be a good thing imo.
Cap doffed,sir. A superb article,and an excellent summation of the reasons why a well-intentioned addition to the game might eventually prove to work to its detriment.
I think most people would agree with you that genuine human error on the part of the officials is one of the things which makes football so exciting and so unpredictable.
A flash of brilliance from one team cancelled out by a borderline offside which the official can hardly be blamed for missing? It happens,and it’s why FIFA only recently changed the rules that previously erred on the side of caution. Previously if there was doubt,the decision went to the defenders-that was changed to make the game ‘more exciting’
VAR removes that;now,a goal must be 100% genuine before being approved. I don’t think that is an improvement,I think it will ultimately turn the game into a soulless version of a video game. But the reasons why we should welcome it as Celtic supporters are obvious-one of them was in charge for Sunday’s match!
Remember when the huns needed to win the league and get the CL money to survive? The Season of Honest Mistakes? VAR would have given Shaun Maloney those two penalties against Weary Dave-instead of a yellow card being his only reminder of that match. We might never have had to suffer the frustration and anger caused by Res 12 had they gone bust back then.
Jock Stein might have got a Treble Treble had RH Davidson not cheated in a monumental manner-as befits a monumental mason!-in 1970;in fact,I doubt we’d have lost in Milan had that happened.
Sliding doors,aye. Aunties and uncles,etc. But the principle reason in common is blatant cheating by officials in favour of their favoured team. VAR is far from ideal but if it helps root out the endemic cheating which has ruined our domestic game for so long,it is a necessary evil.
Bobby took the words out of my mouth – a necessary evil. The Scottish referees have brought us to this point. If it was a case of the odd genuine mistake fair enough. But when you watch game after game being polluted by naked corruption then something has to be done. If the SFA cannot see beyond Lanarkshire masonic referees then so be it. Bring on VAR. Show them up for what they are.
Given the ” honest mistakes” referees have a penchant for here in Scotland, who are the folk that would view VAR decisions, is it former refs or others involved in football?
Good article Matt
Noel, that’s the danger.
The ideal situation would be for VAR officials to be from out with Scotland. But that would involve the SFA admitting that Scottish football is corrupt.
Wao …what a debut Mattybhoy
You touched on it almost immediately. Two clubs in the Champions league who combined haven’t won a league in neigh on a quarter of a century.
VAR has changed forward play. Forwards are more likely to play on the edge of the line as statistically linesmen were flagging falsely rather than being prepared to accept responsibility. Mainly due to them being assessed.
I think VAR is a good thing and will clamp down on cheating.
I just can’t get excited about VAR being a supposed mockery of the game when the game in itself is a mockery. VAR isn’t in my opinion. Priorities seem askewed sp?
Guess what …..stop giving them your money. It will quickly change
You touched on it almost immediately. Two clubs in the Champions league SEMI FINAL who combined haven’t won a NATIONAL league in neigh on a quarter of a century.
Third time lucky
In neigh on a century
Deary me last post ..until the hangover subsides
Due to the tribalism that exists here in Scotland there would be a lot of questions about who does the monitoring and decision-making.
I have thought about the people who will be reviewing the videos and quite rightly some people will have concerns.
IMO, it would be very difficult for someone to ignore a foul in the box, an offside etc, etc,
I also can’t get the head around any Celtic supporter not wanting VAR.
Imagine us and William playing a league decider that whoever wins takes the title and there’s a contentious decision by the VAR system that swings it in one teams favour. It would be bonkers here with all the usual madness. I think it has good points but not too sure of it’s implementation into our game.
It was very hard for three officials-lino,ref,goal-line official-to ignore the Josh Meekings handball.
But they did. And that will continue for as long as they continue to blithely get away with it without sanction.
I do get your point though,that VAR removes the excuse that officials only have a split-second to make a decision. For years,their apologists have pointed this out,adding that they don’t have the benefit of-quote-the so-called experts with multiple replay angles.
I’m sure a high-level ludj meeting will shortly be called on this matter.
But the easy way to get round shocking VAR decisions is to make ALL involved answerable for any decision clearly not in keeping with the laws of the game.
And that means the kind of sanctions that players and managers face for incompetence.
Maybe if we could change our rotten system from top to bottom we wouldn’t need VAR and football could be played in the correct way. Sadly, with money being the be all for some we have left the Corinthian spirit way behind. I fear were heading into the same realms of American Football.
I’m in Mr Skytrot’s camp on this one. I’d rather we just had a higher standard of referees in the first place. Prevention rather than cure. That aside, as has been mentioned, who will the video refs actually be… Farquhar and Preston on an off-day from Motherwell Lodge No.1228? It has potential to make things more underhand, not more transparent, sadly.
MATTYBHOY- Great headline BTW,interesting to note on the 2 main VAR decisions, i never seen 1 player claiming for a handball, or the offside, I’m with TET,we need it here if we can get it,to try and cut down on the ‘honest mistakes’
Since your pun in the title has been largely ignored,I’d better congratulate you for it before I head for my cot!
I listened to the match on Wednesday on R5L,Alan Green and Alan Shearer were in charge,I think. Neither of these two seasoned professionals saw anything wrong with the “winner”-nor with the actual winner twenty minutes earlier. Neither in real time,nor on the initial replay on their monitors.
In fairness,they soon pointed out why both had been taken to VAR. And this is a puzzling point which arose from their discussions as they tried to fill airtime during the deliberations.
For Spurs third goal-which hit Llorente’s elbow-they pointed out that in the pre-match briefing from UEFA that they had been told that one of the main purposes of VAR was to prevent any use of “handball” in the lead-up to a goal.
My immediate thought was that this reasoning means that defenders can be judged differently from attackers,despite committing the same offence.
It wasn’t deliberate,it was ball-to-hand,he tried to avoid it. All valid excuses. For a defender.
None permitted for an attacker.
Fortunately the ref gave it anyway,but offences should be judged equally,no matter where they are committed,nor by whom. A rocky road of VAR isn’t quickly refined.
Our resident refereeing expert-SOLKITTS-might be a tad busy with family things this weekend,including his granddaughter’s first birthday-HAPPY HOOOOOOPY BIRTHDAY,LEXI!!!-but I’m sure he’ll offer an insight when he can.
Meantime,for me it is an excellent system which is already flawed in its application. Until these flaws are fixed,jury is out.
And it’s a No from me,regrettably.
Beat me to it!!!
I think we would all like a better standard of referee in scotland, unfortunately being better referees doesn’t exclude them from being cheating bassas.
Thing about VAR is that it’s gonna happen come what may, it will be resisted for as long as it possibly can be in scotland for obvious reasons, even just a few short months ago BT offered to set it up in games that they had cameras at, it was declined, the powers that B know that VAR will reduce their grip and control of the game to their detriment and our gain, this bothers them big time, I accept it’s not an ideal situation but it’s better that allowing them carte blanch to cheat with total impunity, anything that helps in the slightest way to reduce their chances of cheating has to be a good thing and welcomed with open arms, as for who will oversee it, I would imagine the clubs themselves will have an input.
Aye, they will still attempt to cheat us but VAR will greatly reduce their chances and opportunities to do so, bring it on I say.
Asked my dad what he thought about VAR and his response was…footballers these days are a bunch of whining pricks who go down if their ball hairs are disturbed by the SWOOSH of a passing ball. If you’ve good enough players that can beat the opposition you don’t need VAR or the “other halfwit” who stands behind the goals looking like he’s limbering up for a yoga class (4th officials) Celtic Da’s are brilliant. Lol
“Celtic Da’s are brilliant. LOL”
Aye-I don’t know where I’d be without mine!!!
You’re right,of course. Even though my happyclappypappy could do with casting a more objective eye on Celtic Plc,he’s great company,magic craic,and has forgotten more about Celtic-and everything else!-than I’ll ever know!
Your Dad sounds pretty much cut from the same cloth.
If you attend the hootenanny on 21 Sept,you’ll meet him. Bring your Dad,they can compare notes!!
Hopefully about Celtic,and not about us,mind…
Nice to see PAUL67 offering forgiveness to BR today.
my old bhoy has watched Celtic longer that anyone I know and I’m nearly 50. Sitting listening too him talking about the oul days is brilliant. I’ve a lot to be thankful for as my siblings and myself have been brought up supporting the right club. My first game was in 1975 against Airdrie, I was 4, which is great considering you had no family friendly zones etc. Regarding the shindig, my work patterns are 8 to 8 day shift and back shift due to the nature of my job, but I’d imagine it would be a grand night and I’ll keep it in mind. I hope yer Celtic Da is in good form. HH
following on from my last comment about the first match I attended my Celtic Da told me it was the 1975 SCF against that other dead club Airdrieonians FC.
Couldnt agree less with VAR detractors.
Especially Celtic supporters.
How many penalties denied for Celtic?
How many dodgy penalties against Celtic??
all the way up to the hand of God.
Spirit of the game my arse in parsley!
Good stuff Matty. From the outset I’ve been totally in favour of rolling out VAR on the basis that it would go along way to negate the corrupt, biased officialdom we have experienced from our inception to the present day. Recent observations of VAR however have given me pause for thought. There is no doubt that VAR removes spontaneity from the beautiful game and creates a whole new drama while we watch an incident replayed infinitum. My main concern however is that no system is full proof and relies on the integrity of the human being operating it to ensure it works well. I have my doubts that having witnessed some recent high profile decisions recently whether the same rigour would be applied by VAR if it was a game defining decision in a domestic game that we were involved in. Also how confident would we be in VAR if God forbid Andrew Dallas for example was given responsibility of VAR in Scotland. I can forseee a future where supporters are more concerned about who is the VAR than the MITB. Just a thought. HH
Goal line technology – what is it good for? 🙂
Thank you very much for todays article and giving that lazy sod a day off 😉
The floors yours anytime , great writing.
However I am going to have to disagree with the jist of your argument and a few sentences. Not to be controversial of course , just the way I see it.
“ an exciting Champions League quarter-final tie that contained plenty of thrills and spills but was ultimately soured by a moment of soulless technicality that encapsulated the game’s dour drive for perfectionism.”
Sorry but that game was far from soured , it was an amazing experience from start to finish. And striving for perfectionism is noble and correct. To stand still would be dour imo.
“ two financially-doped EPL clubs “
I cant see how Spurs are financially doped . They get mega tv bucks but they all do so thats a leveler and isnt doping . Spurs dont have the sugar daddy to give them the dope. I cant agree.
“ wasn’t spotted by either the Turkish referee or his linesman.”
Or the tv cameras as we viewers had no clue
“ a team of stuffy officials sitting in front of a series of TV screens to snatch that away from them. “
Bit harsh no ? Just a few fellas paid to do a job ,, all anyone should be asking is whether they did their job or not . Hardly their fault if the call is controversial or unpopular.
“ This, in essence, is where the flaw of VAR lies “
The implication its flawed is not shared by me at this time I would like to state for the record.
I would have flipped that and said look how it worked.
“ In real time, not one the four officials on the ground saw that offside.”
Thats the point , it corrected human error.
“ Fans watch football precisely because of the drama, the mistakes and the occasional sense of injustice that fosters togetherness among their tribe. VAR removes, or attempts to remove that from the game in one fell swoop. One of the greatest appeals of football is that sometimes human error comes into play and has unfortunate consequences.”
I think fans watch the sport and if it entails drama so be it , but would equally be happy watching a drama free well run athletic based league. I wouldnt say human error is an appeal , more a consequence of having humans involved obviously. Everyone recognises we are flawed , and many sports have taken steps to try to mitigate those flaws. I think we are seeing a digital assistant more than an overseer.
“ For the most part, the best team will win. Sometimes, luck isn’t on your side and a bad call can ruin a game. That’s just football. “
Instances such as the Henry handball to make a nation miss a world cup had a serious knock on effect on the economy , relations between the victim nation and their opponents Fa , Uefa got dragged in , Henry himself said he felt let down and almost retired. Its just football ,, as we have right now and imo its correct we try to address situations like the above were its importance cant be stated and to have human error finish a game of such magnitude is ridiculous if the technology is there to briefly assist in clarifying any major calls.
Refs themselves are in favour and that says it all.
“ What we needed were better trained refs in the Collina mould,”
Sorry cant agree . They need assistance especially with the modern day hype and pressure surrounding such games . Above answer touches on this.
“ If VAR is the best they can do, then I’d rather we just stick to the way things were before. “
I personally feel this is a case of even a broken clock is correct twice a day in that yes they have done a lot wrong but when they do something right ( to me and the refs they have here ) they get smeared based on previous .
Its not the best they can do as i major reforms but its bloody handy to have to make sure a match is ended fair and square and I honestly dont see the problem.
“ Not because they lost a European quarter final tie, but because they’d been allowed to believe that they’d won it, until fusty bureaucracy took it away from them. “
I see where you are coming from but hold on a minute ,, their illegal goal was eventually chalked off . If they thought they had won thats their problem and next time celebrate away if you are completely sure and if borderline urge calm and wait perhaps ?
Its frustrating yes but the Nfl replay system has me used to it.
“Video Assisted Refereeing, while borne out of good intentions, does not serve the spirit of the game.”
We should give it at least a decade before its judged overall.
My general argument is that the refs are probably the least athletic on the field ,, the game is getting faster and faster with the counter attack currently in trend and this also doesnt aid the refs.
Then throw in the magnitude of some games ,, like the above example they arent just 3 points etc.
They need help and have got it. Pressure relieved on them plus we at home watching are guaranteed the correct decision. I see a win win for the game .
If VAR is the answer, why wasn’t it used in all the European ties this week. Last night Eintracht Frankfurt scored from an off side position yet no VAR was used to determine the authenticity of the ‘goal’. At the moment it’s very discriminatory and should not have been introduced until it was in place throughout- I’m talking European games here. Where is the ‘ Fairness’ in football that FIFA and EUFA constantly push down supporters throats when they can’t even have it in place in the latter stages of a prime competition. Perhaps they can’t afford it- NOT. It’s either one for all or not at all. One team go out because of VAR and another stay because of NOT VAR. Its amateurish, unprofessional and at the least poor , very poor forward thinking.
A. Michael Mochan
Totally agree. VAR should be Mandatory wherever FIFA UEFA and all other Professional Football Associations have their grubby corrupt little theiving hands.
Morgan scores a beauty for Sunderland
A. Michael Mochan
I don’t think anyone has said that VAR is the answer, but if it helps with bias and cheating referees, I’m all for it, I only care about Celtic, it will be of benefit to us for sure imo, the rest can do one for all I care about them.
A few swearies but a laugh all the same
A Michael Mochan,,
A big welcome. Always great to see new names post and I was telling Bobby during week that another 10 regular posters would really see the blog take off imo.
Look forward to reading your take on things.
A MICHAEL MOCHAN. welcome to the blog ,evening bhoys and ghirls how is everyone, managed to stay off meat today, meat free salad for lunch, and some nice haddock for tea, I remember when every Friday was meat free, that’s how old I am, at least im younger than jimthe tim 53 ? only joking jim.
Big Packy, The Gombeen Man, My soul mates. I broke my fast and abstinence today. I forgot. In the early sixties when the pits were shutting down in our area my father was out of work for a while. We were poor. Sometimes on a Friday my mother had no money to buy fish. She never made herself a slave to the abstinence rule. We ate what we had or could afford. Our Lord was the same. He was mocked by the Pharisees for not sticking rigidly to the rules. He hated legalism. Thank goodness for His nature. And by the way, he supports Celtic. 🙂
Mercy is the key and not listening to the internal critic. Your mam was right and I wouldn’t give it a second’s thought.
He was a Tim alright….?…Open to all.
Big game at the weekend and plenty of time for tunes before we take another step towards the TT.
JIM to be honest my father worked in cardowan and bedlay collierys to earn us a crust, and sometimes he also had no work, and if truth be known, if my mother like yours had no money to buy fish we also ate whatever we could find, god bless you jim and the gombeen man.hh.
My mother was from Carfin. We used to stay at my grandmothers in the summer and play in the Grotto. The Grotto is like Disneyland to children. It is so beautiful. Statues, shrines and caves. There used to be a pond with Our Lady Star Of The Sea in the middle. Everything about it is holy. According to my cousin, even the red gravel stones! There is a sign at the entrance ‘Open To All’ Where have I read that before?
Up until the 1970s people came from all over Britain and Ireland to Carfin Lourdes Grotto. I remember buses parked on the main road for about half a mile. Special trains were the order of the day to Carfin Halt. My Grans house was an open door to all the pilgrims. Like most houses in the area. They got fed and toileted as necessary. Sometimes they left a monetary gift but it was never asked for.
Nowadays people can afford to go to Lourdes and Fatima and Rome. But at one time Carfin was the place to go.
Totally off topic but just want to wish anyone on here who practices their Christian faith or whatever other stripe a very nice Easter Sunday when it comes as I might not get onto the blog on that day. From a born again atheist.
JIM, we used to go to carfin grotto with the school and walk round, don’t forget we are talking 50 plus years ago but I remember the statues of our lady ,so peaceful.hh.
BP, Canon Taylor was responsible for building the Grotto. If I remember correctly it was during the twenties. A lot of local men were out of work or on strike. He paid them 5 Capstan a day!
JIM have a look at this you tube video he was a good friend of my father.hh e https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCHStrGQJ4k
Honestly canny believe anybody let alone a ‘Celtic fan’ wouldn’t thank the Lord for var ?