VAR IN THE EPL: A BLESSING OR A CURSE?

Updated: Mar 29


VAR or video assistant referee is an assistant referee in professional football, who uses video footage to minimize human errors in judgement, made by the head referee on the pitch. But has it really been functioning as it was intended to since its introduction to mainstream football in 2018? The amount of controversies caused by it are large and seemingly unnecessary. It has resulted in the outcomes of many matches being drastically altered and many suggest that it has had more of a negative influence on the game than a positive one. A fairly recent example of how VAR has had a (negative) impact on the game was seen in the Merseyside derby on matchday five of the ongoing 20/21 Premier League season. Jordan Henderson’s winner in the third minute of stoppage time was disallowed because Sadio Mané, who assisted the goal, was barely offside before he received the ball. The argument presented here is that the offside rule was created in order to prevent attackers from gaining an unfair advantage by standing behind the last defender. In this situation, Mané was essentially on the line and had absolutely nothing to gain from being offside by such a small margin. Yet VAR decided to disallow such a late and crucial winner in a passionate derby. Had VAR been implemented in a more situational manner, as compared to the current general approach that is used, then perhaps the outcome of the game would have been completely different.


(Sadio Mané's offside position)


Another example to show how large of an effect VAR can have can be seen in the game between Aston Villa and Sheffield United last season on the 17th of June this year, after the Premier League restarted. In the 41st minute, a free kick from Sheffield’s Oliver Norwood clearly passed the goal line, however due to a malfunction in goal line technology, the goal did not stand even after a VAR review. The game ended 0-0 with both teams taking a point. At first glance this does not seem like an extremely large issue, and it wouldn’t have been, except Aston Villa survived relegation by one point. Had this game ended with Aston Villa losing, they would’ve been relegated due to goal difference and AFC Bournemouth would still be in the English Premier League for this season, completely changing the dynamic of both the 20/21 premier league and championship seasons while also having a direct effect on future seasons.


(The ball, clearly having crossed the goal line)


VAR is a powerful tool, and it was originally intended to solve problems which were caused by the human eye missing things cameras could not. The idea behind it makes sense, but the manner in which it has been implemented has caused more issues than it has solved.


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