My views on VAR were only hardened by events at Wembley as England continued their preparations for the summer with a positive performance and a draw against Italy.
I’ve already gone on record with my fears that future delays while all goals are checked will only deny supporters their spontaneous enjoyment, and I’m afraid the way the penalty was awarded at the death in this game has only confirmed that the risk of letting subjective opinions intrude is so big that it actually threatens to make a farce of the World Cup Finals.
James Tarkowski will forever remember his decision to pursue Federico Chiesa late on during his full international debut, but the interpretation of the extent of his contact with the Italian’s foot should have been left to the official closest to the incident, in my opinion.
It was never a penalty in a million years, but the mere fact many people would and have disagreed with that isolated verdict of mine in itself illustrates a massive flaw in the thinking behind the whole concept of the video ref: if there are so many people with different points of view on an incident then it can’t be a clear and obvious error, can it!
When Deniz Aytekin, the German referee whose task it was to make the TV gesture with his hands that we are coming to dread, actually got around to pointing to the spot, it was hardly amid a storm of protesting blue shirts. OK it was only a friendly, but the most they were asking for was a corner!
So I’m in complete agreement with England manager Gareth Southgate in calling for the referee’s decision to be final in general, as well as questioning whether there was an error to correct in the first place on the night itself.
The only upside I think we could realistically hope for would be if some of the minds that matter were to get together after this international break to ask themselves: can we narrow the remit for VAR down to different criteria in time to avoid disaster in June, in what is such a global, one-off show-piece for our sport?
Very much a secondary issue in my book, but nonetheless one that has caused more than a few complaints in the media, is the way England’s sponsorship obligations have led to the players only getting one game in which to familiarise themselves with the match ball they will be using in Russia.
Because the Football Association has a deal with Nike, that means the Telstar ball manufactured especially for this summer by Adidas will only feature in the final warm-up, the one against Costa Rica that is scheduled to take place at Elland Road, Leeds, 11 days before the opening game against Tunisia in Volgograd.
As a player I switched between balls for different tournaments without too much difficulty and I would advise our players to just get on with it. A) because they’ve got to, and B) because the differences between modern balls are so very subtle that they really don’t pose a serious threat when it comes to leading any top player to make a fool of him or herself.