Here are some of the main arguments for and against the use of video refereeing in England’s top-flight…
Human Error Still Exists
Football is a sport played by humans, and humans will always make mistakes – period.
The Women’s World Cup in France has been plagued by several high-profile moments of controversy surrounding VAR, some of which have seen referees and officials giving the wrong decision – even after watching replays of incidents from a variety of different angles.
And we’re not just talking about subjective interpretations of fouls, with several clear offside calls missed by officials.
VAR was supposed to try and eliminate errors but referees and officials will continue to make mistakes; it’s just a sad fact of life that many decisions will remain not clear-cut and still generate heated debate.
The Enjoyment Factor
The Premier League is often referred to as the most exciting and unpredictable division in European football, and rightly so, but the introduction on VAR could see a massive slice of the enjoyment sucked out of games.
This summer’s Women’s World Cup has seen several muted responses from supporters reacting to their team scoring, with many expecting a referral to VAR.
Moreover, similar reactions were seen when VAR was used in last season’s FA and Carabao Cups, with the backdrop of a video referee constantly re-analysing every major decision paralysing the passion fans should be able to display when the ball hits the back of the net.
It might not ‘kill’ the Premier League, but there’s a good chance it’ll certainly kill some of the fun and see a rise of muted goal celebrations.
Of course, when a decision is sent to the VAR officials they have the luxury of watching the incident several times over from a variety of different views, which can often distort how an incident is interpreted.
For example, Manchester United’s shock comeback against PSG in last season’s Champions League round of 16 tie was aided and abetted by a very controversial VAR decision.
In real time, Diogo Dalot’s shot looked like it might’ve hit Presnel Kimpembe’s arm, but pretty much nobody at home was demanding a penalty.
But, slow it down and watch it frame-by-frame and suddenly it looks a lot different, and it can be interpreted in a completely different light.
The Premier League is played at such a ferocious speed that slowing down some of the biggest incidents and refereeing them in slow motion just isn’t right – because football, particularly in England, just isn’t played in slow motion.
Over time could we run the risk of officials becoming “reprogrammed” and taking a neutral position? Essentially, do nothing and instead rely on video replay to decide the outcome.
Of course, there are several arguments pointing towards VAR being a helpful tool in the Premier League next season, and nobody can deny that some of the classic mistakes that used to be missed by referees will be caught by video assistance and lead to fewer unjustified defeats.
A recent survey commissioned by Compare.bet found that of 2,000 football fans, despite negative sentiment surrounding VAR in the media, 7 in 10 supporters are in agreement that Video Assistant Referees will have a positive impact on the sport.
The eye-watering levels of increasing money in the English game means that errors by referees no longer just affect fans and players, but shareholders and owners all over the world, with one refereeing call potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
With those sort of stakes, it might make sense to have as many safety nets as possible, eh?
No Long Delays and a ‘Higher Bar’
According to a recent article in the Telegraph, the Premier League has promised it won’t be blighted by some of the record delays and stoppages experienced in other competitions due to the implementation of VAR.
During this summer’s Women’s World Cup, there have been average stoppage times of 7min 27sec per game and, in farcical scenes during England’s 3-0 second-round victory against Cameroon, a total of 18 minutes were added on.
But the Premier League’s hierarchy have assured fans that officials will be instructed to specifically avoid such delays, with a “high bar” required for deciding when they need to utilise the pitch-side review area.
Regardless of the arguments for and against the introduction of VAR, it’s coming to the Premier League from next season onward – but are you fully behind it?
Let us know in the comments section below…