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Equal time: 6 compelling reasons to embrace VAR technology

Friday 19th January 2018

It can come as a real shock to some when others resist the technologies that make life easier. It's been that way throughout human history. It was dourly predicted television would hamper social and intellectual development. Others thought the automobile a nuisance fad that would soon go away. It frightened the horses. Galileo was put under house arrest for proving the world wasn't flat. Early cave people probably harassed the poor soul who brought them fire, grunting out that he would surely burn them all to death in their sleep. Today, kids roll their eyes when parents interrupt their online World of Warcraft for help programming the VCR. Some of us embrace change; others fear it.

Football has embraced technology slowly. It is the last major sport to implement video assisted review even though it is always first to castigate the poor referee who somehow cannot keep his eyes on a single football and twenty-two players simultaneously.

For those still hesitant about the VAR tech, here are six compelling reasons to embrace and even love video review:

Get the call right

What is the effect of one goal? The consequences can be enormous. One bad call allowing or disallowing a goal can be the difference between relegation and survival. It can decide champions League qualification. Even a title. You may not really care if it does not concern your club. When it does, however, the world stops.

If VAR technology gets more calls right, bring it on.

The stone-cold penalty

Chelsea fans are going to argue this after Willian was booked for simulation after review appeared to show him being tripped. Notice I said "more calls" not all in the last section. Nothing with a human operator will ever be perfect. That doesn't mean technology won't improve the game.

No one can deny that penalties are among the most impactful calls in football. A goal is almost guaranteed when one is given and surely denied when it is not. That can be the difference between winning and losing.

Arsene Wenger’s recent criticism over decisions that cost the Gunners points saw him suspended. He was therefore not in the technical area when Nottingham Forest knocked his team out of the FA Cup. Had VAR been available, it's far less likely the Frenchman would have had a complaint. Going into the Forest match his side may have had a different mindset. 

Stoppages

VAR critics cite interruptions and delays as unacceptable attributes. It took 67 seconds to decide Kelechi Iheanacho's second goal was good in the Leicester/Fleetwood Town FA Cup 3rd Round replay. It often takes more than that to issue a red card or for a substituted player to stroll off the pitch. Far more is at stake however. If we can put up with the silly delays we must tolerate the critical ones. 

Red Cards

How many times has a player escaped a red card only to score a critical goal? How often has a player been sent off for a soft or phantom call?  These are calls that directly influence the outcome. Why on earth should such an important decision unnecessarily be subject to human error. Referees can be out of position. Their line of sight can be blocked. They can just get it wrong. All tools to limit mistakes should be brought to bear.

State of mind

Ask Howard Webb how he felt when he discovered he'd let Nigel de Jong remain on the pitch after the Dutchman's flying kung fu kick to Xabi Alonso. "Gutted" was the term the man himself used. At the time he felt he'd made the right choice but officials can often tell from the level of outrage from one side that they've gotten it wrong. That can only affect their performance for the rest of the match. 

When a referee hashes a call early, more mistakes often follow because his concentration and confidence are broken. Video review not only allows officials to get the call in question correct, but future ones that won't be reviewed as well.

Justice for all

There is nothing as sweet as justice; nothing more bitter than injustice. Musicians have sold albums on the subject. Human rights activists give their lives to its pursuit. Justice is a human need, injustice an affliction.

Football is just a game but one which inspires deep passion. The pain from unjust decisions lingers long after the final whistle. Fans have been known to riot and assault officials. They have been arrested, lost jobs, ruined their lives over a silly emotion. That too can be prevented. 

VAR is not perfect. It brings the game closer to perfection however. If it's raining, you've forgotten your umbrella, and no one is standing under the bus shelter, do you stand in the downpour because eventually it will stop? If you do I can't help you but if you have the sense to get out of the rain, then you should be on board with video review.

Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.


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