Why I hate VAR (and always will)
Under the guise of making football fairer, VAR has only succeeded in detracting from some of its best and most important aspects. The lived experience of attending a match has been compromised for the sake of televised spectacle, and a level of painstaking accuracy that benefits nobody.
I don’t care if Raheem Sterling’s shoulder is a couple of millimetres offside, or Declan Rice is marginally inside the area when a penalty is taken. Neither should anyone else. If it was that important or obvious, the officials would have picked up on it to begin with. Even if they didn’t, I don’t see why it should matter. Life moves on.
Mistakes were made before VAR and continue to be made now. It’s the nature of a fast-paced sport, played and officiated by fallible people placed under excessive scrutiny. The price of over-analysing marginal decisions is simply far too high. The delays are too long and create an unnatural interference in the flow of the game.
I don’t want perfection in any part of football, refereeing included. It’s a flawed pursuit with no obvious end point. Unfortunately, managers, players and partisan supporters are all too adept at shifting blame and attributing poor results to questionable refereeing decisions. This won’t stop just because the worst cases have supposedly been addressed. The use of VAR is still subject to interpretation and football shouldn’t be pandering to those who refuse to admit fault anyway.
One of the most appealing things about the beautiful game is its unpredictability and incoherence. Matches are often messy and irrational. The richest, most dominant teams don’t always come out on top. The unfashionable underdogs occasionally prevail. Luck plays a large, yet intangible role in separating the winners from losers – and so it should.
In trying to exert too much control over the inherent flux and uncertainty of football, many match-going supporters have been left feeling alienated. They are the lifeblood of the game whose loyalty is routinely taken for granted. While VAR may add an extra layer of drama for those watching at home, doubt and indecision prevails in the stadium.
Every goal comes with a caveat, every celebration undermined by the knowledge that a review is underway and it may ultimately count for nothing. The joyful spontaneity of football is undercut by a tedious and unnecessary tallying process.
This isn’t what I want and, no: I genuinely wouldn’t care if my team suffered at the hands of an obviously incorrect decision that VAR would have overturned. It might be frustrating at the time, but the essence of football matters far more than potentially losing a couple of points.
While you're here, why not take advantage of our brilliant subscribers' offer? Get 5 issues of the world's greatest football magazine for £5 – the game's greatest stories and finest journalism direct to your door for less than a pint in London. Cheers!