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The end of VAR? Premier League admit incorrect penalty decisions made in all 3 Thursday matches

2 years ago

Welcome back to the world’s greatest football competition (copyright Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC and any other pundit/patsy with a financial stake in boosting this overblown league).

Last night brought what I believe was the most honest confession yet that VAR doesn’t work.

Though that was not exactly how those allegedly in charge would have described events.

BBC Sport’s online coverage summed it up thus:

‘Incorrect penalty decisions were made by the video assistant referee (VAR) in all three of Thursday’s games, the Premier League has told BBC Match of the Day.’

So there we have it; all that technology, all that fanfare, all those “experts”…and what have they actually done to eliminate incompetence on the field? Absolutely sweet FA (or should that be sweet EPL?).

Being in my seventh decade, there’s a dangerous tendency to waffle on that things were better in the good old days.

You know, Mars bars were bigger, peaches were sweeter, blimey, maybe even my teeth were whiter. And of course music, girls and football were more exciting.

In reality, the levels of skill, speed and power in football today are light years ahead of the scruffy scuffling I watched from the Leazes End in the early 70s, when thousands of noisy Geordies would tell the “b.stard in the black” exactly what they thought of him. The deafening chant “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing” was the mildest of insults hurled his way in those days. And sometimes the ref didn’t, partly because professional footballers, then as now, were adept at the dark arts of diving, off-the-ball assaults, feigning injury and the rest.

The referee was on a hiding to nothing, paid a relative pittance to officiate, working full-time in a proper job in between his match-day duties and facing the terrifying prospect of a trial by TV under his honour Judge Jimmy Hill (“I’m a qualified referee, don’t you know”). Rubbish refs were part of the fun, as were rubbish pitches from November onwards, rubbish local football coverage on Tyne Tees TV with at one stage the venerable Kenneth Wolstenholme commentating, presumably from his bath chair at the old people’s home, rubbish grounds (no sane person would have called anywhere apart from Wembley a stadium 50 years ago) and rubbish haircuts.

Well, time moves on and we now have multiple cameras at every EPL game, so at least those Leeds United-style bouts of GBH nowhere near the ball can be picked up and punished. And goal-line technology has, most of the time, ended the arguments on whether the whole of the ball crossed the whole of the line. Not that Sheffield United fans would celebrate that breakthrough after their goal at Villa last month was allegedly missed by all seven cameras. I suspect the reason for that blooper was the minion operating the technology had dozed off, such was the poor quality of the match.

And instead of the lonely “ba.tard in the black” left to his own devices, there is now a veritable army of officials, on and off the pitch, poised and ready to GET THINGS RIGHT.

Except they don’t, because football is and always will be a game open to interpretation.

Hence the three separate mess-ups last night in three separate matches, all centring on whether a penalty should have been awarded. The ref in each match got it wrong in real time. The VAR, with multiple replays from various angles, got each decision wrong after a lengthy review. Whoever said “two wrongs don’t make a right” certainly knew their stuff; unlike the VAR zealots who campaigned for years until football caved in and agreed to their demands.

Here’s another cliche: to err is human, to forgive is divine. Humans make errors. Each ref made a human error on the penalty call last night. Each VAR endorsed that error, despite having the time and technology to overrule rather than support the initial mistake.

From my perspective, all the VAR system has done is add to the controversy caused by dodgy decisions. Perhaps that was the cunning plan all along, Baldrick. Increase the number and scale of talking points and watch those viewing figures soar. VAR delays and deliberations certainly did nowt to enhance the spectator experience in the pre-Covid era.

Imagine Newcastle United were in a relegation dogfight on the last day of the season.

Imagine we needed a point to stay up.

Imagine the referee, in the 93rd minute, with the score 0-0 and your resting pulse hitting 140bpm, awards a dodgy penalty to the opposition.

Okay, that’s a fair bit of imagination…

But relegation dogfights and dodgy penalty decisions are commonplace for our fans in the Ashley era.

So the ref points to the spot. The VAR checks are made. Anyone with a basic understanding of football can see no foul has been committed. Replay after replay reinforces that view. There is, in the words of the VAR protocol, “a clear and obvious error”. Only two people believe the right decision is a penalty; the ref and the VAR. We lose 1-0. We are relegated, the start of a long and miserable spiral of decline that takes us into the third tier of football’s pyramid for the first time in history.

We sink as low as Man City, Leeds, even Sunderland. SJP becomes a near-deserted wasteland. And meanwhile, within hours of the final whistle being blown by that referee, the Premier League tells Match of the Day the decision should have been a free kick to the defending team, as was the case in the Villa v Man Ure game last night. Fancy that, eh, Man Ure winning yet another dodgy penalty with the help of not one, but two officials. It’s unbelievable, Jeff!

And don’t even get me started on the offside “because his big toe is ahead of the last defender’s elbow” argument. Or the handball farce, when the ball brushes a prostrate player’s arm after he is hacked to the turf. We can afford to be philosophical until what happened to Villa last night happens to us. Or we can go back to the good old days and abandon the VAR system before it does even more damage to the beautiful game.


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