Although I was glad to see the latest VAR performance deliver correct decisions at Anfield in the FA Cup fourth round clash between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion, I was not 100 per cent convinced, and I get the distinct impression I’m not the only one!
My reservations and those of others may well differ, however, so here is some food for thought. I agree that it’s a nuisance having to wait longer for decisions, yet that in itself is not something that won’t improve with time. The penalty incident involving Mo Salah last weekend took longest of all, and I do understand why, what with Craig Pawson being invited to have a look by his friends at Stockley Park.
What rankled more personally was the third West Brom goal, the one that was given, and how the delay in verifying it could point to different longer-term issues. Both incidents set me thinking, and my conclusions will not be in accord with the way those in charge are thinking, even if I do manage to gain support elsewhere!
Firstly, once the ref decides he is not sure, for me he is holding his hands up and asking for help, so forget the egos and just turn the decision over to his team-mates. By that I mean there’s no need for him to be viewing the incident again himself and, if you follow my logic, then that means we don’t use the screens they have wheeled to the side of the pitch in readiness.
Given that we all accept it’s a subjective issue in the first place, I say, as soon as the game is stopped, the responsibility goes to the referee with the camera angles at their disposal, full stop. Not only will this save valuable time, but the players will know it’s a waste of time chasing the ref down because they can no longer argue the toss with the person making the decision.
My second suggestion is that we do away with VAR on offside decisions with immediate effect. The exception might be to correct calls that have been made, but even so, I see there being longer-term questions being raised about the redundancy of the onfield assistant’s role altogether if we keep going down this road.
Let’s face it, the majority of goals, if you take out the occasional ‘worldy’, are nearly offside anyway, it stands to reason. And to check every single one of them, whether or not play is continuing, is only asking for more problems, in my opinion.
If we leave it as it is, the lesson we should have learned from the Matip own goal that was awarded by Pawson is that players and supporters are denied the instantaneous euphoria of scoring what was a crucial and probably decisive away goal.
Speaking as a fan, sooner or later that is going to put you off. Waiting for the nod once you have scored could well become an unwanted ritual that takes away from the essential enjoyment we are all used to getting from the game.
So, while they are both time-related, my suggestions are less concerned with the natural desire to speed up the process and more concerned with the unintended consequences that may lay in wait.
To recap: restrict VAR to penalties, red cards and mistaken identity, let the refs in the middle trust their mates and scrap the pitchside screen while retaining the technology that helps us identify whether or not the ball has crossed the line.
Keep everyone informed, leave offsides to the assistants already in place and don’t take anything more away from the spectacle, or we’ll all regret it!