Viva VAR!

VAR is in close competition with Diego Maradona to claim the prize for unacceptable hogging of the world cup limelight. It’s had way too much press already but I’m still going to share my thoughts about it.

For those that don’t know VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee as revealed by Boring James Milner when he gave us his opinion on it, in typically entertaining fashion. It involves a group of fully kitted referees monitoring the match in a studio and feeding back to the match referee and officials. This process is there to make the referee aware of possible clear and obvious errors and allows for an overturning of the original decision.

It’s introduction to the English game in the 2017/19 season wasn’t particularly great and the naysayers were expecting it to be a complete shambles during this world cup. It hasn’t been.

People are naturally resistant to change but it is quite amusing how many of those claiming how terrible VAR is, are usually the ones who have been known to criticise referees greatly and complain about injustices e.g. managers and many former professional players. The thing about VAR is, whatever you think about it, more decisions will end up correct. How is that not a good thing?

The price for getting those decisions right may have been deemed too costly if VAR has taken too long or been too intrusive but for the most part in this world cup that hasn’t been the case.

There have been some inconsistencies in the refereeing decisions but the blame for this cannot be attributed to VAR. Refereeing will always be subjective to a certain extent and different officials will see the same incidents differently, even after seeing a replay. But in the split second that a referee has to judge a situation, he now has a chance to check the most crucial of those decisions and decide if he was mistaken. Throw in the entertainment factor and I can’t see what’s not to like.

VAR’s use in the 2018 world cup finals has highlighted the fact that we need to revisit the handball laws but then most of us knew that already. Ball to hand, hand to ball, intentional or unintentional, natural position/unnatural position, we see so many different interpretations of the rules every week in the English game and VAR isn’t going to change that. It seems some people think that by using VAR all decisions have to be 100% correct or there’s no point. One bad refereeing decisions following a VAR review and some seem to think that backups the argument that VAR is rubbish. Utter nonsense.

Other sports such as rugby and tennis have successfully utilised the latest technology to improve their sports in recent years and I’m baffled as to why so many in football are against attempting to do the same. The system isn’t perfect, no new system ever is and it will be an iterative process. VAR though is here to stay in some format or other so get used to it.

The game will change and we’re already seeing more penalties given.  There have been more penalties given this world cup than in the whole of the last one in 2014 and we haven’t yet finished the group stages. The average pre-game price on a penalty taken in the Premier League last season was 4.05 and it’s around 3.0 for World Cup matches at the moment.

What other impacts VAR will have remains to be seen. Will it benefit the better teams more as their will be fewer injustices? Will it put an end to diving once and for all? In the betting markets will we see a change in odds for the unders/overs markets as more penalties means more goals. The odds on the draw will surely go up too? Pinnacle have demonstrated that VAR may be resulting in a slight decline in home advantage.

I remind once again, that whatever impacts VAR is to have, more refereeing decisions will be correct overall. And as I write this it’s just helped put out the Germans!!

Viva VAR.


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