Authorities need to fix VAR or prepare to watch their fanbase disappear

The seemingly never-ending instances of marginal and incorrect VAR decisions are killing the game as a spectacle and is simply unfair on players and fans alike.
Authorities need to fix VAR or prepare to watch their fanbase disappear

West Bromwich Albion's Mbaye Diagne scores before being given offside by VAR, even though he looked onside to everyone, during the Premier League match at The Hawthorns, against Southampton. Replays showed No5 Kyle Bartley as being marginally offside but he didn't score the goal.  Picture: Michael Steele/PA Wire

IT'S amazing, the international break somehow wipes our memories of the things that are so annoying about the rules and governance of the game, such as VAR. Like sporting goldfish, we immediately forget the last injustice and go on about our business only to be similarly outraged again when the next dumb decision from the electronic referee comes along.

There were so many VAR controversies this week that even the dimmest goldfish among us could not but grasp the growing injury the technology, or rather the interpretation of the technology, is having on the game and the disillusionment incurred on the poor fans.

Last weekend's list of ridiculous VAR decisions cancelled out goals for Wolves and Liverpool on hair-thin offside decisions on Friday and Saturday. While Sunday saw a line run through Man United's opening goal due to a hand brushing the face of an opponent.

But all these ludicrous decisions were topped by the farcical, even disgraceful, events in Monday night's football clash between West Brom and Southampton. Here, officials didn't overturn an offside decision even though it seemed they could not determine which player they thought was offside.

With the game at 0-0, West Brom's Mbaye Diagne thought he had scored when he flicked Darnell Furlong's cross into the net, only for it to be flagged offside.

Replays suggested it was Kyle Bartley who might be offside, rather than Diagne however. In VAR's weird logic, they could not determine whether Diagne was offside or not, so the on-field offside decision remained.

The official line on the night said that the video assistant referee could not reverse an offside decision because they could not find a definitive camera angle to show he was onside.

Even though everyone with their bare eyes could clearly see that Diagne was behind the last defender, VAR could not find a camera angle that would establish whether he was off or onside.

All the VAR angles and lines shown on our screens however showed Bartley as the player they were looking at. Even though he was not the player that scored the goal.

Were they actually looking at Diagne at all? They could have said that the marginally offside Bartley was interfering in play but they rather suggested they didn't have a camera angle on Diagne to overturn the onfield decision. This despite every TV angle we were watching, clearly showing him onside.

Referee Chris Kavanagh consults the pitchside VAR screen before ruling out Manchester United's Edinson Cavani's first goal against Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: James Warwick
Referee Chris Kavanagh consults the pitchside VAR screen before ruling out Manchester United's Edinson Cavani's first goal against Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: James Warwick

Roll-up your sleeves

10 minutes into Sunday's United’s clash with Spurs, United thought they had opened their account when Paul Pogba rolled a lovely pass for Cavani at the edge of the box. The Uruguayan went through and fired into the net. However, a VAR check on the goal decided that Scott McTominay had caught Son Heung-Min in the face with his hand earlier in the move.

Even though the minimal contact was hardly a foul, why do we have to go back multiple moves to determine if an incident, should rule out a goal? Spurs still had multiple chances to stop the goal but didn't, yet the goal was ruled out for something that marginally happened 30-yards away from the eventual goal.

In Friday's game against Fulham, Wolves' Daniel Podence crossed the ball in for Willian Jose to head home but again, after the VAR check, it was judged that the top of Podence's sleeve was offside in the build-up to the goal.

The Liverpool 'goal' from Roberto Firmino is chalked off by VAR which deemed that Diogo Jota's sleeve was in an offside position in the build-up.
The Liverpool 'goal' from Roberto Firmino is chalked off by VAR which deemed that Diogo Jota's sleeve was in an offside position in the build-up.

There was a carbon copy incident at Anfield the following day when Roberto Firmino's equaliser against Villa was quashed by VAR as, earlier in the move, Diogo Jota was deemed to have the part of his arm where it meets his sleeve offside. By the way, that's Liverpool's 10th goal ruled out by VAR. The most of any team in the Premier League.

All the weekend VAR controversies had one thing in common, none of the goals disallowed were due to the actions of the players that scored them but rather the very marginal infractions of their teammates.

And in West Brom's case disallowed because officials didn't seem sure which player they were looking at.

We've gone through this before there are ways to fix this, the obvious one requiring clear space between players to determine an offside.

Again, there is nothing wrong with the VAR technology but rather the mess humans have made interpreting the laws imposed on the technology.

Football authorities need to listen to the disgruntled remarks of the players, managers, pundits and most importantly the fans. If the technology is not making the game better something else needs to be tried, otherwise they are killing the game.

If they are not careful, even us goldfish will swim somewhere else.

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