Why Premier League fans want VAR
Technology, it's a wonderful thing. Introducing fourth-official digital help in recent times has proven successful. But the next step forward in Premier League football is Video Assisted Referees. Already utilised during the World Cup earlier this year, some fans are already thinking about VAR's regular use in the near future.
Many would agree that the World Cup was a huge success in Russia. Mainly down to the new VAR making its first appearance at a major international tournament. Red cards, penalties, offsides and plenty more incidents underwent review which wasn't 100% accurate. However, it helped the match referees by a great margin. We saw the difference it made and how many decisions were correct after being reviewed. Although, some game plays were denied to be reviewed which could have been. It's still a work in progress. In time, it'll be perfected.
Originally the Premier League had planned for VAR to be introduced this season. But the majority of clubs voted against it, as many felt the testing phase wasn't vigorous enough. This has halted the process until at least next term. Last campaign, we saw glimpses of how technology could work domestically, as it was implemented in both the FA Cup and Champions League.
But why do many fans still think about VAR when they know it cannot be brought into England's top flight until next season? It is purely down to inconsistencies with referees. Many decisions each week are seen as "wrongly awarded". Match officials are human so they will not get every decision right. But with the way modern football is, fans demand decisions need to be pretty much perfect. Every single time.
There were a few incidents over the past weekend that will have triggered fans to shout out "VAR!" as many did during the World Cup in Russia. One clear incident was during Liverpool's 4-0 drubbing over West Ham at Anfield. Sadio Mane's second goal was, to kindly put it, mildly offside. This goal made it 3-0. Which basically killed West Ham's hopes for even a point. Even though Liverpool were dominant. This isn't a hate on the Anfield club but a point of principle. It is just primarily an example to discuss what many fans will be thinking in these situations.
Another incident occurred during Arsenal's match-up with Manchester City. Benjamin Mendy grabbed Shkodran Mustafi around the neck in Man City's penalty area. Nothing was given but if VAR was available it would have gone up for review. Eventually awarding Arsenal a penalty. It's game-changing moments like these that will be viewed differently next season if it goes ahead.
As the game weeks progress, we will see more situations where VAR may have been used. But we have to deal without it. Goal-line technology has not long been in use so as football fans we are having to adapt to modern criteria. There is an expectancy to deliver high-quality football as well as high-quality decisions from officials.
One weird thing to consider is that referees hardly receive much respect if they make the wrong call. With the first step of goal-line technology, we have already witnessed players not even bothering to pester the ref to say it wasn't a goal because an alert pops up on his watch. With VAR there are more clear angles to view an incident and a special VAR team who advise the match official if a situation is deemed reviewable.
The main downside to it all is the confusion and time it takes to complete the individual processes. We saw games in the World Cup that regularly went into six or seven minutes added on due to the time taken on VAR reviews.
Waiting at least another season is probably the right timing for Video-Assisted Referees to come into play. Major leagues such as the MLS, Bundesliga and Serie A have already started using it which is a big step forward. Who knows, next season's final match decision could be down to a VAR call for a team trying to win the Premier League title or escape relegation.