‘It seemed to be overused’: Match-going fans react to first weekend of VAR

The 2019-20 Premier League season is just a few days old, and yet the newly implemented VAR technology has already stolen the headlines on multiple occasions.

Gabriel Jesus will go down in history as the first player to have a goal ruled out by VAR in the Premier League, his effort for Manchester City against West Ham chalked off for an offside infringement.

But what do the fans who attended the first games of the new season make of the impact the tech has had on their experience?

Pete May, 59, has been going to West Ham games since the 1970s and is the author of ‘Goodbye To Boleyn’ and West Ham blog ‘Hammers in the Heart’. He described the numerous effects VAR had on the game at the London Stadium.

“The (home) crowd sort of reacted as if it was a goal for West Ham,” May told PA of Jesus’ disallowed goal. “And that could have changed the game, because the crowd were raised by it, and the players too.

“There were people jumping up and down as if it was a goal scored! And it was then quite noticeable that when City did get the third, their fans were quite muted in their celebrations until the VAR review came through and confirmed it was a goal.”

West Ham United v Manchester City – Premier League – London Stadium

Referee Mike Dean (right) ahead of the VAR check for Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero’s penalty during the Premier League match at London Stadium (PA)

May said there were around seven VAR reviews during the game, adding that he felt some were unnecessary and others confusing.

“There was a bizarre moment early on where there was a red card review for a challenge by Antonio, which didn’t look that bad,” he said.

“The decision was no red card, but they played on and there wasn’t even a yellow card, so that was odd.

“It slightly hampered my enjoyment. The decisions were right but it did make for more of a bitty game.”

The early kick-off on Saturday was not the only game where VAR made an appearance – Wolves had a goal disallowed in their goalless draw at Leicester after the ball was adjudged to have been handled in the build-up, a decision one fan described as “a farce”.

Leicester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers – Premier League – King Power Stadium

Referee Andre Marriner (centre) speaks to Wolves players at the end of the match at the King Power Stadium (PA)

“Well I had celebrated, ran down the front,” Matt Cooper, 23, from fan channel ‘Talking Wolves’ told PA.

“It’s a farce, no Leicester player appealed, no fan either. It took 90 seconds to come to the wrong decision. It will kill the game and it will kill the passion and tribalism that comes with football.

“Wolves fans went mad. It would have been three points on the road against a top side. Then it was ruled out and you get the, ‘Wheeeeey’ from the home fans, chanting, ‘VAR, VAR’.

“I’ll think twice about going mad for a goal (now). I would be more reserved.”

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The introduction of the technology to the Premier League has been widely debated on television and social media already. May believes it does have a place in the game, but could stand to be used more sparingly.

“I think probably they should be more sparing, and maybe what I’d like to see is some kind of limit on the number of things you can query over VAR, because some of them did seem rather spurious.

“I think it was good for the goals – the marginal offside decisions – but it seemed to be overused.”

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