This weeks Birmingham Mail column 29th Aug
Why do the Premier League and consequently the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) appear so reluctant to use Video Assistant Referee (VAR) when it can surely only improve the game? It would have been in use this season but the Premier League clubs voted against using it this season and instead insisted on a further season of it being trialled.
The cynic in me thinks the longer it is not used the longer clubs have for their players to dive and cheat their way through games under the banner of “professionalism” which in honest language means they will do anything fair or not to win a game.
True VAR will not get every single incident correct as it will still be down to the referee to make the final decision upon viewing the incident on the VAR screen. However I am willing to bet that it would get most of the decisions right. In addition if a referee looks at VAR and still gets it wrong despite VAR proving the incident was a foul then he should be disciplined by the PGMOL. Also if a referee decides not to use VAR on the advice from the VAR team and it was proven to be a major game changing incident then he should be retrospectively punished.
However it has to be 100% clear cut and if not then the referee has to be strong enough to say no despite pressure from players and manage We saw in the World Cup players and managers embarrassingly trying to persuade officials to use VAR for just about every tackle in the penalty area.
It has to be the referee’s decision to decide if he wants to use VAR or not during a game however I am certain that most referees would want help in getting the major game influencing decisions correct and that is where his VAR team can help.
VAR will only be used in four game-changing incidents: goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity.
The referee can ask the VAR team to review an incident or a decision he has made. The VAR team would also be allowed to recommend a review of an incident or decision but only if in the opinion of the VAR team that a clear mistake has been made and then they can notify the referee to review.
The referee then has three options: they can immediately overturn the call based on the VAR's advice, review the incident themselves on a monitor on the touchline or stick with their initial decision.
And I am sure most would agree that is the only way to use VAR to stop the game being interrupted every few minutes. In other words it is used for decisions where a penalty kick would be the outcome or where a goal has been scored from an offside position. Other than that it should be used for violent conduct incidents such as stamping that the referee has missed and of course where the wrong player has been carded.
Why on earth we need to keep trialing it is baffling to say the least. If it gets 95% of decisions correct then use it now and not only in the Premier League but also in the Championship which has the biggest financial reward for promotion than any league in the world.
One suggestion that may have merit is that each team be allowed say a maximum of 3 VAR calls although I am not in favour of that in my opinion leave it to the VAR team and the referee. However before discussing VAR and its benefits you have to start from the point of knowing that players and managers have a different idea to the rest of us about what is cheating and what isn’t.
They scream for a yellow or red card after any sort of tough but fair challenge on their players yet seem quite happy for their players to go to ground at the slightest touch in the penalty area in order to win a penalty kick and possibly get their opponent sent off as a bonus in their eyes.
There has been some suggestion on social media this week that PGMOL are happy for their referees to ignore the laws of the game regarding handball and whether or not it was intentional. Surely that is a throwback to the days when all laws had the rider “if in the referees opinion” attached to them.
However there has been no official comment from the PGMOL on that suggestion however it is quite simple for me and I suspect every single football fan. If it hits your hand and is directed away from or towards goal then it is a foul end of story. It might be tough but it has to be irrelevant if you meant to handle the ball or not. If you didn’t mean to handle it but it results in a goal or denying the opposition a goal then it is a foul.
Stop messing about and get VAR installed at every single Premier and championship ground now. If they are awaiting for the system to be 100% accurate they will be waiting forever because at the end of the day it will still be the referee who decides even when he is looking at a VAR screen. However if they get the majority of the game influencing decisions correct then the game will be better for it despite the protestations of the managers and players. It will go a long way towards us having a fairer and more honest game. Although to be truly honest the players and coaches will have to play their part but don’t hold your breath.