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The problem 

I was discussing VAR recently with a patient who was in favour of it purely on the basis that it has reduced the amount of cheating, diving, rolling around and conning of referees, as players know that they will not get away with it under the scrutiny of VAR’s cameras. Whether it has actually done that is, like almost all matters examined by VAR, subjective and therein, as we all know, lies the problem.

On its introduction, VAR was supposed to rectify clear and obvious, on field officiating errors and end the constant criticism of referees and unjust results brought about by those errors. However, it wasn’t long before it was looking at play in general and interrupting play to look at incidents deemed “missed” by the referee. Discussions at the pitch side screen between VAR and the referee became more frequent and caused lengthy interruptions to play, frustrating fans in the stadium who were kept blissfully unaware of what on earth was going on.

What was going on was that one week’s on field referee was next week’s VAR and so the shockingly poor quality of PGMOL’s finest was evident in both capacities and some inconsistent, not to mention inexplicable, decisions were being enforced by the man with the monitor. My patient suggested more VAR assistants on duty might give a wider consensus when judging incidents and, thereby, a truer outcome. The obvious counter to that argument is that if it takes two of them five minutes to decide an offside, five of them would take an impossibly long time to come to a conclusion.

A possible solution

We argued about how to improve the validity of decisions while at the same time reducing the level of interruptions to the game. My own suggestion was to use or reinstate, if it has since been declared redundant, the Video Review Panel. Not in it’s previous incarnation where nobody knew when it could be used, or what for, but give it the power to review all incidents retrospectively and hand out proper punishments, be it yellow cards or red cards, whether “dealt with” or not by the referee at the time. Even goals could be retrospectively awarded and results adjusted in the case of clear, serious error – like the abomination given against us at Newcastle. That would result in league positions changing but they are affected already anyway, when you see league tables printed “with and without VAR”, having considered clear and obvious errors. In the new system, teams would at least receive their just deserts rather than a mealy mouthed apology from Howard Webb.

Of course, there would be initial outrage or joy at the deduction or award of a point or two, two days after the event, or a rival leapfrogging you as they receive a late additional point. But it is unlikely to happen very often and actually, so what ? There is constant outrage at the moment anyway, and no possibility of correcting a wrong result.

The success and acceptance of the Video Review Panel would depend on its competence, lack of perceived bias and lack of outside influence. To that end, I would suggest a trio quite independent of PGMOL and free from any residual bitterness from outcomes years ago. It would therefore comprise an ex-player, an ex-manager and maybe a journalist with long football experience of the calibre, for example, of Philippe Auclair, Jonathan Liew or Matthew Syed.

The ex-player and manager could come from a middle order club so they would be less likely to harbour grudges against former major rivals but would have real knowledge of the game – something too many current referees seem to lack.

We have a situation at the moment where PGMOL supply both on field and VAR officials in the Premier League. Those same officials also take lucrative matches in Saudi Arabia – and, of course, Newcastle are owned by Saudis. The Daily Mail reported in April this year that Michael Oliver was flown business class to Saudi Arabia and paid around $3,000 to referee a match between Al Hilal and Al Nassr in the Saudi league.

It is outrageous that Premier League officials, with one eye potentially on continuing employment, can be on the payroll of people who own one of the clubs whose matches they decide.

The result

So, would this retrospective activity just be delaying the agony? Possibly, but at least fans in the stadium could get back to enjoying the flow of the game without constant, minutes long interruptions for a process that they can neither see nor hear. 

VAR could then be binned and left to sports like tennis and cricket where binary decisions are more appropriate. The referees and linesmen, together with goal line technology, could reassume control and we could all go back to arguing the whys and wherefores in the pub, instead of for the next week on social media.

This, of course, is not a perfect solution. That would be to train better quality officials to make better decisions and fewer mistakes in the first place. Their inefficiency was, after all, what led to the demand for technology, but it is a monster that is now out of control. 

Fans pay a huge amount of money to live in the tension and drama of a match and the spontaneous explosion of joy when their team scores. My guess is that they would rather bemoan and debate the contentious issues among mates than listen days later to Peter Walton and Howard Webb reverse engineering nonsensical “explanations” of them on TV. 

We cannot have a sport that is so sanitised by technology that fans can no longer celebrate a goal before deferring to a VAR screen to see if someone has found some atom of a reason for disallowing it. 

There is also an unnecessary element of risk to players caused by the way VAR is used. Afraid to make a mistake, linesmen and referees will now defer to VAR and allow play to run on until that phase of play comes to an end. During that time a player can suffer a serious injury, only for VAR to then render that phase redundant because of an earlier infringement ignored by the referee. 


VAR in its current form has not eradicated clear and obvious errors. Rather it has replaced many on field errors with some entirely of its own making.
It has not reduced fans’ frustrations with refereeing decisions, but it has amplified and extended them with mid-game interruptions.

Rules have been changed to a point where nobody understands them, to try to work round all the issues that VAR replays have thrown up – handball being the obvious example.

It has eroded the confidence of on field officials to make prompt decisions, and thereby increased the risk of unnecessary injury to players.

Hopefully the bin awaits …..

57 Drinks to “VAR …… What Is It Good For? …… Absolutely Nothing!”

  1. 1
    Depressedgooner says:

    I have a dream, where football is played fairly, where players do not roll around trying to get an opponent sent off, where managers & ex players do not praise players for going down when they feel the hot breath of an opponent on their neck.

    Then I wake up and remember football is no longer a “sporting” event, rather a money fueled monster where fairness is decided by lawyers.

  2. 2
    Depressedgooner says:

    Oopsy, forgot to thank Trev for articulating my thoughts far more succinctly than I would have and way more sophistication.

  3. 3
    Trev says:

    Hi DG, thank you and hope you’re relatively ok – still in there fighting 🤞🏻

  4. 4
    War says:

    Copyright violations … What are they good for … absolutely nothing!

    Just kidding, Trev

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    A penetrating and provocative piece Trev, getting right to the heart of the matter. Binning VAR at least in its current form would be a marked improvement. The standard of correcting clear and obvious errors has long since gone by the boards, and any revised version of VAR should go back to that sensible idea. Details are in the devil or something to that effect.

  6. 6
    Ollie says:

    Cheers Trev. Interesting piece. Part of your ‘possible solution’ is exaggerated nonsense as goals being retrospectively awarded (and by the same token also chalked off) is a non-starter for obvious ‘parallel reality’ reasons. Although as you say, tables are already affected by mistakes.
    But no, just as a striker missing three easy chances does not mean he should have scored a hat-trick (what does mean it is if he’s missing an easy chance after having scored two already), changing results by simply removing or adding a goal scored in the first minute would be a new level of absurdity.
    Although the conclusion is still: it’s all fucked. VAR seemed a possible good new idea for the reasons you stated, but perhaps indeed it should simply be scrapped.
    Would that be going backwards? I don’t know. Sometimes you try things and they don’t work, you just have to accept it, change back, try to improve what you have and etc…
    I was in favour of VAR, now I think there’s much evidence it didn’t bring that much good. Yet…a lot of that seems due to incompetence and PGMOL’s conflicting and self-serving interests, so perhaps there is hope.
    What is practially certain, is that for the football fan, it’s not added anything to the enjoyment.

  7. 7
    North Bank Ned says:

    A thought-provoking piece, Trev. If you didn’t have me chuckling as you usually do, it is only because VAR’s incompetence reduces me to tears.

    Ollie’s right that retrospectively changing match results is not feasible. If fans are drained of all joy by having to wait a few minutes for a goal to be confirmed, what will it be like having to wait a couple of days for a result to be certified?

    If technology-assisted officiating is best for adjudicating binary decisions (offside, ball over the line, etc.), why not just use it for that and bin all the rest of VAR until the kinks are worked out over using it for other offences?

    An interim measure could be to have assistant referees for the goal lines as well as the sidelines to add an additional pair of eyes on the penalty area — although I recognise that if the PGMOL was supplying them it might just mean adding incompetence to incompetence.

  8. 8
    OsakaMatt says:

    Coincidentally it seems MA is being charged with the usual bollocks for giving an honest opinion about VAR after the Newcastle game. I hope you don’t get charged too Trev 😂

    I am still thinking about some of the many points in the article but firstly thanks for writing the piece about something that has become so unpopular recently. I was in favour of VAR at the beginning and still am really as it has been useful in some ways, not least shining a brutal light on the utter shambles that is the PGMOL. I think there is no chance of the radical reform that is actually required and so little hope of improvement in the near future. However, next one option might be just to use VAR for offsides for a season and see if that works any better – the dimwits can’t draw a line so use the World Cup version hopefully.
    Plus we would no longer have to watch the refs pointless trek to the video review camera, which is just an annoying exercise in face-saving.

  9. 9
    OsakaMatt says:

    We had the same idea it seems Ned.
    The additional one of an extra ref is a good thought too. I think there is actually less diving these days than immediately pre-VAR, and that has been a positive for me.

  10. 10
    TTG says:

    Thanks for an excellent and provocative article which underlines the negative impact of VAR on our game and the fans’ psyche. I agree with other posters that retrospection can ( and should) only go so far but I do think there are things to learn from other sports .
    Firstly I think we should automate offsides as far as is possible using technology already proven to work. Offsides will become like contentious line calls in tennis ie, they will cease to be an issue. If the red light comes on you are offside . The laws need to be aligned with this level of simplicity .
    Retrospection has a place to play . Rugby have their sin bin idea with provisional cards. Players are ‘ binned’ and the officials can decide if the card is upgraded to red. That should get around the need for an immediate infield decision.
    I would also borrow from rugby a clock that measures the time and is stopped when play is held up so that everybody knows how much time is left . I would give teams ( as in cricket ) two reviews per half . Fatuous reviews are lost but the coach can challenge a decision if he hasn’t used up his capacity and it is reviewed by a real time analysis which is communicated to the players and spectators so that the process is transparent . The referee’s assistant is there to help the ref as in TMO.
    The genie is out of the bottle and however much we want to scrap VAR you cannot do so now because the media will just pick up on the mistakes made without it
    Good work Trev

  11. 11
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers Trev. Well done for articulating what a shitshow this is.

    Offside needs to be automated. That would stop the wasted time when incompetents start drawing lines to judge something that tech could have told them instantly and without the baffling potential that they draw the lines wrong.

    All VAR and ref mics need to be audible at all times. It’s as simple as that. Give them nowhere to hide.

    None of the refs should be allowed to take jobs paid by owners of Premier League clubs, or any clubs. Shambolic as it is that this needs stating, and wherever one falls on the notion that this influences decisions, it is a simple maxim of our judiciary that justice must not only be done but be SEEN to be done.
    This is not currently the case. The situation whereby a man getting paid one week by the owners of a football club (when he, presumably, wants to be paid by them again for future work it is in their gift to offer or not offer him) makes a decision in their favour looks as fishy as it possibly could.

    Frankly, right now, going just on how things appear, the refs looks incompetent and bent. Whether they are only one of those things is not clear, so let’s legislate to remove the conflict of interest, and scrutinise them properly by having access to their decision making process in full.

    Like a judge refusing himself, I, personally, would never have accepted to ref a game featuring Newcastle when I was an employee of their owners because it would so patently open me up to accusations of impartiality, at best. I would not put myself in that postion. The facts that refs do this is merely another reminder of their arrogance, or perhaps simply their realistic awareness of how utterly untouchable they are. Beholden to no-one, all their errors justified by their mates, able to punish those who disagree and abetted by a media who craven desire for engagement has long since usurped any notion of fair and faithful reporting and editorialising.
    Refs currently hold all the cards, and can find a reason to explain why a Royal Flush loses to a pair of threes, should they need to.

    As has been true for decades, we need an independent body to regulate the referees, with the power to enforce disciplinary action for fuckups. This to be comprised of people with zero connection to the current refereeing cabal. I’d suggest former European refs as a start and go from there.
    I’d also wonder about former rugby refs as consultants for rewriting VAR procedure. Possibly even give them full-time jobs as VAR officials. I’m sure many of them know plenty about football, and I suspect that it is easier for a top international referee to learn the technical details of football’s less well known rules than it is for someone who knows a lot about football to learn how to become an international.standard referee. Just offer them a decent wage with no need to run about in the cold and I’m sure a wealth of top-level experience would be available to sort this mess out.

    Furthermore, i would simply give VAR a 30-second time limit for all non-goal decisions. If they can’t decide by then if a challenge is, or isn’t a red card, then stick with the on filed decision and leave them the power to give a retroactive ban.
    And I’d give them a 60 second time limit for goals. If they can’t decide in that time that the ref’s on field decision is a clear and obvious error, then it is not one. (Or, perhaps more accurately, they do not possess the competence to establish it as such.) Either way, go with the ref on-field and get on with the game.

  12. 12
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    With my last suggestion, I’d have a countdown timer on the big screens in the stadium that starts as soon as a goal is awarded, and once 60 seconds are up, the decision can no longer be changed. It would not be quite the same for fans as looking at the lino to see if he’d raised his flag and then celebrating, but it would be decent balance between correct decisions and fans still having a massive cheer when the clock got to zero.

  13. 13
    Ollie says:

    I’m with the automated offsid guys above.
    Also, Ned @ 7: didn’t the extra ref in the penalty area exist for a bit a few years ago, in the Champions League or something?

  14. 14
    Trev says:

    Good to see folks engaging over this –
    My problem, even with automated offside lines, is that debate will then turn to how the precise moment of release of the forward pass is determined – something that is relatively little discussed or measured but every bit as crucial as the millimetre of big toe that is judged offside. Linesmen will still leave these decisions to VAR exposing players to unnecessary injury as play continues.

  15. 15
    Ollie says:

    Good point, Trev. The only solution is to,er, ‘trust the technology’ and never show any sort of replay with lines. 😛
    Completely right about linesmen though, I think a lot of the actual refereeing has changed because of the alleged comfort cushion of VAR.

  16. 16
    BtM says:

    Interesting piece, Trev.

    VAR is usually wrapped into a single package of woes. To my mind the principle strands of discontent are :

    1. Lack of clarity on rules – handball and what constitutes it is most commonly contentious – but we’ve seen lack of understanding on offside, forearm smashes to the head, shoulder barges to the middle of the back and two hands on shoulders being/not being a foul (and most of that in the past month).

    Solution : publish then drill the desired standards and regularly test referees for comprehension and consistency.

    2. Technology inadequacies – being unable to determine whether a piece of leather has crossed a painted line in the 21st century is unacceptable. Likewise, being unable to determine the exact positioning of the key players at the time the same piece of leather. Communication on key issues between decision makers needs to be audible and visible. Always.

    Solution : Obvious, innit?

    3. Refereeing Incompetence – we’ve reached a stage where one person in black is often having a more direct impact on the outcome of games than the 22 players on the field. The difference in recruitment, development, remuneration and performance profiling of said men in black and players is enormous.

    Solution : Change all of that. The PL is a money making machine. It can afford to carry the cost burden (because we’ll all willingly pay more for tickets or SKY).

  17. 17
    Sancho Panza says:

    It’s obvious referees have always been wankers and bastards.

  18. 18
    Countryman100 says:

    A really interesting piece Trev and some great comments above. Sorry to change the subject but it is confirmed that Everton have had an immediate ten point deduction for FFP. Here is the Everton statement. Note in particular the penultimate paragraph.


  19. 19
    Ollie says:

    *newsflash* 100 points deduction for Man City confirmed. Right?

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    The only thing surprising about the FA charging Arteta over his outburst at Newcastle is that it has taken it so long to get around to doing it.

    The FA does not rank highly on my list of enlightened and forward-thinking organisations, but this seems a blatant case of shooting the messenger.

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    My two cents would be that Everton can monitor the decisions made in any other cases concerning the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules all they like, but they’ll get more joy out of watching paint dry.

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    Ollie@19: You misread it. City’s lawyers have reached a settlement whereby the club is confirmed as PL champions for the next three seasons…

  23. 23
    Ollie says:

    Ha! Thanks for enlightening me, Ned. :-O

  24. 24
    Trev says:

    Thanks to everyone for the compliments but mostly for providing a really excellent set of drinks. I had hoped the piece would provide a bit of football interaction during yet another Interlull and you lovely lot have exceeded expectations.
    The fact that so many folks have gone to such lengths says a lot about the state of affairs we are suffering from week to week.

    Mikel Arteta had now been charged with misconduct and my feeling is that that particular indiscretion would normally be punished with a touchline ban. A “mere” fine would maybe suggest that the FA feel compelled to take some sort of action but realise there is a problem to be solved.

    No breath will be held here however.

  25. 25
    OsakaMatt says:

    @19 Ollie
    That’s 100 points per season for the last
    20 years right?

  26. 26
    Ollie says:

    Matt. Could you discretly join the Premier League’s Commission? 😉

  27. 27
    Bathgooner says:

    An excellent and stimulating piece, Trev, generating a superb series of drinks. It would be invidious to try to refer to any. There are many great ideas there.

    I’m 100% behind the use of the automated offside system used in several European and International competitions to date. The decision to reject this system in favour of drawing their own lines is a clear measure of the quality of decision making by PGMOL.

    I too doubt the wisdom of retrospective revision of decisions apart from review of serious foul play inadequately sanctioned by the onfield official and the VAR muppet. I think we have enough evidence in this area that the VAR muppet cannot be used as the final arbiter. It’s true that they have conclusively demonstrated their unreliability in all other subjective areas of judgement on the football field but I agree with others that scores and points cannot be retrospectively adjusted without utter bedlam and lawsuits (except in the case of clubs with 115 charges of financial irregularity and non-cooperation).

    I totally agree that UK officials should not be moonlighting as employees of nation states that own UK clubs. How would other clubs feel if Anthony Taylor had a contract with the Arsenal as a office boy or toilet cleaner? Would they not be justifiably suspicious of his decisions in Arsenal games? This arrangement should be banned and any further such jollies should precipitate an instant sacking. I am astonished. that any of them thought it legitimate.

    Every communication between officials and VAR muppets should be public and heard in real time by the crowd in the ground and the TV audience.

    The VAR muppet should not be the final word on subjective decisions on onfield events. While I would prefer an independent group of highly trained individuals with no loyalty to PGMOL or its officials rather than their mates in a booth, I think GSD’s suggestion is correct that if the current (imho compromised) VAR muppets continue in the role, there should be a time limit on all such decisions. I also think the VAR muppets’ only contribution should be to call the referee’s attention to the need to review the pitch side monitor to confirm or to reverse a decision that may be erroneous. The infield referee should be the final arbiter of all decisions. The call to review is of course yet another subjective decision (do I/don’t I ask my mate the referee to review his decision there?) but I don’t think there is any way round that except to ensure that there is no chummy relationship between the two individuals involved and to ensure that decisions (both those of commission and omission to intervene) in each game are reviewed at yet another level (the man who watches the man who presses the button) to ensure the VAR muppet is conforming to guidelines (that should be made public).

    The secrecy of PGMOL and its recent faux transparency are clear evidence of moral turpitude, if not of concealed corruption.

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@24: Earlier this year, Klopp got a two-match touchline ban and a £75,000 fine after being charged by the FA under rule E.3.1, the same breach Arteta is charged with. This rule covers ‘abusive and/or insulting and/or improper’ language directed at match officials. Klopp accepted his charge and had one of his two touchline bans suspended. The FA described a two-match touchline ban as ‘standard’, although it makes it devilishly difficult to find any information about disciplinary proceedings on their website. (The ‘statement’ the press quotes about Arteta isn’t posted, for example, and a search for E.3.1 brings up nothing more recent than May’s charge sheet.) Its most recent E.3.1 charge that it has made public was a six-match suspension for a player who made a racist remark to a teammate. Does the FA consider being critical of match officials a more or less severe offence?

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    Another thought that strikes me is, if the FA is sanctioning criticism of PL match officials, shouldn’t they be the direct employers of those officials rather than a private third party, ie, the PGMOL? All referees come up through the FA county associations until they get to the elite levels (1-4), so the FA should potentially have the capacity to develop and supply PL-level referees. As it funds the PGMOL (along with the PL and FL), it should also have the money to do so. I can see a rationale for treating the development and management of elite referees for the top leagues as a separate operation from administering officials for non-league football, but the current method of doing that does not seem to be working. It rarely works out well when the lunatics are running the asylum.

  30. 30
    North Bank Ned says:

    The 10-point deduction for Everton means the Match Week 12 Leaderboard has had to be revised. Good for some Predictathonistas, and bad for others. You know where to find the new version…

  31. 31
    bt8 says:

    One thing to add about the goal at Newcastle that should have been so much more easily ruled in or out as to whether the ball crossed the byline before Willock retrieved it. There was no VAR camera angle directly on the line so reviewing the available replays became a matter of conjecture.

    But the Premier League also employs a second video review system known as goal line technology. Presumably those cameras would have shown more clearly whether the ball went out because they are stationed directly on the line. But does anybody know if those replays were ever even consulted?

  32. 32
    ecg says:

    I think the problem is the cameras are focused on the goal and have a relatively small area covered. Here is an example:

  33. 33
    bt8 says:

    Thanks so much Ned for your weekly contrst updates, complete with snappy graphics. Who could have predicted the need for a contest table update in the middle of an interlull? Of course, having set this high bar we will now be expecting a similarly speedy contest update in the event that Everton’s points docking appeal is successful before season’s end. Not that a successful appeal would benefit me personally of course.

  34. 34
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for that picture, ecg. Goal line technology then is just for the goal line incidents.

    I was actually wondering if the far post would have blocked the goal line technology’s view of the line but I guess my larger point should be that in every PL ground there should be cameras that show conclusively whether the ball has crossed the lines.

  35. 35
    bt8 says:

    And my still larger point should be that Joelinton’s two hands shoved in Gabriel’s back was definitely shown by VAR but not reviewed according to what the evidence clearly showed, that it was a foul both egregious and foul.

  36. 36
    North Bank Ned says:

    bt8@33: It would have been speedier if the PL had updated its own table sooner. It took it so long that I was beginning to suspect it had changed its mind.

    ecg@32 is right that goal-line technology is to confirm the ball has fully crossed the line to score a goal, but your @35 is on the money. If an attacker has two hands on the back of a defender — and from above, as was the case of Joelinton on Gabriel — he is impeding him. No ifs, no buts. Clear foul. However, given what was said between the ref and the VAR in the Jorginho incident audio, it seems there has to be a weapons-grade assault now for the whistle to be blown.

    To a point made by others earlier, why do assistant referees need to wait until the end of a phase of play before signalling offside? Someone is going to get crocked unnecessarily one day when a defender, rightly playing to the whistle, mistimes a last-ditch tackle. Plus it chews up yet more playing time with the ball dead.

    Again, to echo Bath, lots of good points made above about VAR. Semi-automated offside and real-time transparency over referee-VAR discussions to rugby’s standards seem sensible reforms that would be straightforward to implement. The priority, though, should be to raise the standard of on-field refereeing so there is less need for VAR and it becomes a minor issue, not the central one.

  37. 37
    bt8 says:

    Had a rare but successful opportunity to boycott a Rwandan product. Given a choice between drinking coffee from Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia or Kenya I opted for the Tanzanian.

  38. 38
    ClockEndRider says:

    Great piece, Trev, and some great, thoughtful comments in response.
    For me the central issue is the inherent lack of transparency in the PL/PGMOL structure. These two organisations need to be legally separated. How, in the 21st century can you have a situation where effectively the regulator (at least intra-game) is actually within the structure of the host organisation? Jeez, the Romans knew this 2000 years ago; Juvenal wrote “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” – who shall watch over the watchers themselves? Admittedly the context was actually how to ensure your wife remained faithful, but hey, as a maxim it seems perfectly reasonable to apply it to this argument!
    Secondly, I cannot see why referees and VAR are not miked up so that we can hear all comms between them, as in Rugby Union tests. This will of itself drive higher standards of operation of VAR from the frankly shambolic levels we have now, as witnessed whenever a brief snippet of the VAR conversation is released. The proficiency in the application of the technology shown at the recent Rugby Union World Cup was light years in advance for that we see in football, a game with far, far more money available. For me, Rugby is a game with far more nuanced rules than football and if it can work well there, it can certainly be made to work in football.
    It will also have the side benefit of encouraging gobby players to behave in a more restrained manner towards officials. If you can do it in a hugely physically confrontational sport like rugby, there is no reason whatsoever you can’t do it in football. Arguments to the contrary are reduced to the level of the ridiculous when you consider the relationship between boxing opponents and the referee, especially given the sometimes egregious application of in-bout points deductions in that most brutal of sports.
    I can’t get behind the idea of removing VAR because I don’t see what problem it solves. Or rather, the problem it solves is a wholly circular and, to my mind, deliberately designed one; the quality of decisions is poor. Bring in technology as a neutral arbiter, and then place the same people who currently officiate so poorly in charge of the new system. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

  39. 39
    Ollie says:

    Excellent points, CER.
    Can you offer your services to whoever is in charge?

  40. 40
    ClockEndRider says:

    If only, Ollie. I fear that dissenting voices are not what they want to hear….

  41. 41
    Countryman100 says:

    Good piece by Henry Winter on Everton

    Premier League must act with same force against big guns


  42. 42
    Bathgooner says:

    That’s a masterful summary of the issue, CER @38 with a fine classical quotation that I had forgotten. The VAR technology is not the problem. The problem is the operator. PGMOL have simply added an additional layer of potential incompetence to the process by having it operated by the same flawed and often prejudiced individuals who are so subject to error and ‘unconscious bias’ as whistlers. Until the VAR operators are wholly independent of the whistlers – and not the same individuals in rotation or even the same individuals on retirement from whistling, but with the same loyalties to ex-peers – the system will not be objective. Moreover, the VAR decisions should be open to real-time public scrutiny and be reviewed post-match for correctness (though not correction) by an independent panel.

  43. 43
    Trev says:

    When I offered in midweek to turn a “drink” into a main piece, I hoped it would spark a bit of conversation during another fortnight devoid of proper football.
    Let’s put forward the most extreme but possibly plausible (most clearly disagree 😉) solution and see what happens.

    What happened was that I have enjoyed the best set of drinks I can remember for a long time. Every contributor has been excellent, latest among them, CER who, like others has offered a seemingly perfect answer to the problem, rather than just slagging off VAR and accepting “it’s not going anywhere now”.

    Wouldn’t it be great if these solutions could find their way in front of those with the power to change the fiasco with which we are currently lumbered. And just to be clear – that is NOT Howard Webb.

  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    CER@38: An excellent drink; and a dash of Juvenal is always like garnishing a latte with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

    You raise one particularly fundamental question. Should the VAR be part of the match day officiating team or an independent adjudicator of it?

    Rugby’s TMO is a part of the officiating team, and sits in a truck outside the ground, not at a centralized VAR hub in an office park miles away. However, the TMO is a specialist official who will not be a referee, although some are ex-referees. That strikes me as a good balance between integration and independence. Football has some specialist assistant referees so the concept wouldn’t be that alien if introduced.

    Rugby is also specific in its rules that the referee always has the final decision and that on-fled decisions stand unless there is clear and obvious evidence to the contrary — a nuanced but significant difference from a clear and obvious refereeing error.

    Like others you have noted rugby’s superior performance in keeping the crowd informed as reviews are being made and the cleansing power of transparency. A simple step to take with so many benefits.

  45. 45
    North Bank Ned says:

    bt8@37: Commendable. Good job the choice was not of South American coffees, otherwise you might have ended up having to go for a Brazilian.

  46. 46
    bt8 says:

    Well I wouldn’t go for a Brazilian wax now would I Ned? Edu, Martinelli, Jesus or Magalhaes I could go for but not Guimaraes, to be sure. As for South American coffees the Colombian is tough to beat, with a stick or otherwise, in my experience.

  47. 47
    scruzgooner says:

    without reading anyone’s responses (apologies if mine repeats what others have said above) i am thinking two things after trev’s fine post, thank you trev:

    • the shift from “rectifying clear and obvious on-field errors” to “review everything and decide if there’s something minor enough not to be called that should be adjudicated” has been heinous for the way the game is being played right now. it’s brought doubt about what people are seeing with their eyes in the moment (players, coaches, refs, and supporters in the stands) and forced the game to the replay room.

    trev’s “afraid to make a mistake” statement, or put another way “not worried to make a mistake”, because VAR will review regardless means the on-field ref is relieved of a huge amount of his responsibility. absent that responsibility they can suck even worse and get away with it. the lack of transparency, the lack of responsibility for the ref, and the inability of the VAR room to have a conversation with the ref that is worthy of being sent up to everyone watching means that no matter what the decision, *someone* is going to feel there’s a conspiracy against their team, shrouded in the secrecy of the process (as we’ve all discussed here too, the money flowing in the game becomes a player in that feeling). absent VAR it comes down to the ref; perhaps they’re so variable these days because of the pressure they feel to make the right decision, knowing as they do that video and social media and online chat/etc. will enable supporters and clubs to shred their decision-making no matter *what* the decision? and yet VAR hasn’t fixed that, it has simply enabled less-able refs to take the pitch, the PGMOL knowing they’ve “got it covered” one way or another if they fuck up.

    • i miss the old review panel days, too, regardless of how often the results went against the arsenal point of view. trev’s solution is innovative, but would never fly…there’s little to no way to control the results of that panel’s discussions. what it does have going for it is its relation to the rule book. that book can be out, and the re/ruling can be elucidated in depth in a way that VAR cannot offer given the time constraints. while i’d love to see points retroactively awarded or removed, i can’t see that happening. the best i could imagine would be that the results (other than changes to card color/etc., suspensions, fines, etc.) drive the FA and PL to push (a) the PGMOL out of the game after a certain number of fuck-ups determined by the panel, or (b) the PGMOL to get refs who are fully conversant with the rules and their applications, rather than refs (as we’ve seen by the audio from the VAR coven) who interpret the laws outside of their actual statements.

    anyway, that’s my 2¢. thanks again, trev. now i’ll ready everyone else’s drinks and hope to find mine insignts to be as original and topical as i expect to find 🙂

  48. 48
    scruzgooner says:

    gsd at 11, this is 100% correct: “Furthermore, i would simply give VAR a 30-second time limit for all non-goal decisions. If they can’t decide by then if a challenge is, or isn’t a red card, then stick with the on filed decision and leave them the power to give a retroactive ban.”

    this goes back to clear and obvious. i agree completely.

  49. 49
    scruzgooner says:

    btm at 16, all of that, yes yes yes. the last especially, given the amount of money in the game these days and the number of PL refs needed each weekend (40 just for the field, plus the VAR folk) there should be serious training regimes and re-iterations of the fundamental rules of the game.

    baff@27, “the infield referee should be the final arbiter of all decisions.” yes.

    love the rest, too. great stuff. i begin to suspect the problem isn’t with VAR but with PGMOL, and its evidenced cronyism. get rid of the pgmol, make it a division of the FA, require serious training and relate all decisions consistently to the rulebook (not that of the FA, as for ma8’s and klopp’s “bringing the game into disrepute”). make referees responsible, make them accountable, and make the process transparent. not too much to ask.

  50. 50
    scruzgooner says:

    and, just for fun 🙂 as long as i am hanging out by the half-ton goal…

  51. 51
    OsakaMatt says:

    Top goal-hanging scruz👍

  52. 52
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the half-ton, Scruz.

    In defence of the PGMOL (a phrase one will not see written here that often, mostly for good reason), it does do a lot of training and performance reviewing of its referees. These have all come up through the FA’s reasonably rigorous system of training and promoting match officials from entry to elite level, at which point they get taken over by PGMOL. The problem seems to be that all that effort by the PGMOL doesn’t seem to make a jot of difference. To one of Scruz’s points @47, ‘the inability of the VAR room to have a conversation with the ref that is worthy of being sent up to everyone watching’ alone is a damning indictment of the ecosystem of elite referees and refereeing. It suggests something systemically wrong that needs organisational reform to make right.

  53. 53
    Ollie says:

    Well in Scruz.

  54. 54
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Late to the party but thanks Trev,
    I’m in favour of offside/ goaline decision reviews remaining but would be happy for the rest to be scrapped and live with the consequences of refereeing decisions however they may fall.
    As someone who retired from playing at age 35 and then refereed for the next seven years I’m surprised that more ex-players are not somehow involved in the process, There’s nothing like the experience of actually playing the game, at whatever level, to help decision making in many different facets of the game.
    Mistakes will be made by referees, as they are by players, but as long as there is no real (rather than perceived bias) made then so be it.
    Let the subjectivity remain with the man in the middle.

  55. 55
    OsakaMatt says:

    Out with some friends drinking yesterday, football fans all. The basic opinion was pretty much exactly as Noosa (and others) suggested i.e. automate the offside, keep the goal line tech and bin the rest. Although it’s not an ideal solution – just my opinion, as I think any solution you implement largely because people are too incompetent to use the existing system is not ideal – I do think it would be easy to get general support for such a change.

  56. 56
    OsakaMatt says:

    Good 3-0 win away at Brighton for the Arsenal Women today. Well done them on their 5th league win in a row and it seems they have recovered well after a difficult start to the season

  57. 57
    scruzgooner says: