Monday, May 20, 2024

VAR: What is it good for? Absolutely nothing …

Morning all.

It’s been quite the weekend and yesterday we almost had the joy of one of the funniest results of all time. Manchester United, 3-0 up on Coventry in the 71st minute of the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, let that lead slip, conceding three goals to send the game into extra-time.

Then, right at the death, it looked as if Coventry had won it, only for the goal to be disallowed for an offside in the build-up. I mean, they said it was offside, and they drew the lines and everything, but this is the least convincing offside I’ve ever seen.

I think we’ve all had our issues with VAR, but moments like this should unite every true football fan in opposition to it. Campaigns should be launched. The public should march en masse to PGMOL headquarters to demand it be scrapped, and for this organisation to be disbanded at once. Not simply disbanded, everyone who works for it should be sent to a prison island for the rest of their days.

This would have been one of the best things that ever happened in football. The world is a bleak and difficult place at the best of times, why would they deprive us of this in the name of so-called accuracy? None of us care about getting it right, we just wanted to Man Utd get beaten in hilarious fashion. Yes, if it were our teams on the receiving end of that generous decision we’d sit here this morning talking about how great this technology is, but it wasn’t, so we’re not. That’s how it works.

In all seriousness though, am I alone in thinking that when they’re making a marginal decision like this, the fact they appear to be using a camera phone from 2005 might actually not be the best idea? We live in a world where the broadcasters go on and on about their HD and Ultra-HD, and where some countries have 8k cameras for their coverage, but when it comes to VAR decisions it’s like the graphics on a ZX Spectrum (look it up, kids). It’s not as if the money isn’t there, so why is it like this?

Anyway, I look forward to the cup final where a United team that shipped three goals – and could have let in more – to a Championship side, will find it a bit more difficult against Man City. They might be tired and exhausted, as Guardiola made clear, but you could deprive their entire squad of sleep for a week, make them run up and down a steep hill carrying a wriggly sheep on their back, and they’d still be able to win this game comfortably.

Meanwhile, there’s more VAR shenanigans in the Premier League where Nottingham Forest’s owner got hold of the log-in for their Twitter account after their defeat to Everton:

I’ve seen the highlights, and I can understand why they might be aggrieved at the decision making. I think we’ve seen penalties given for similar incidents in other games, so to have three overlooked in one game is obviously very frustrating. It’s also worth pointing out we’ve seen penalties not given for much more obvious infringements this season, although one of them actually involved Forest too (Nico Williams v West Ham), so this probably feels very acute to them.

That said, as much as I have my own issues with PGMOL and VAR and some of the people employed by that organisation, I’m not entirely sure a football club accusing an official of inherent bias is going to get us anywhere. First, it’s impossible to prove – it’s more likely to be incompetence, and I suspect that behind the scenes Howard Webb has issued some kind of edict fairly recently about raising the threshold for physical contact when awarding penalties. If that edict hasn’t been made public, which wouldn’t be a surprise because their favoured method of communication is that terrible Michael Owen TV show and the bloke from ESPN who makes excuses for everything they get wrong, then it leads to stuff like this.

Obviously there is a wider discussion needed, and a sensible discussion too, about refereeing standards in the Premier League. We’ve been on the receiving end this season, as I’m sure I don’t need to remind you, but while I’m all for managers being allowed to speak openly and honestly after games, I feel like that’s where some kind of line should be. That if the clubs themselves as institutions start getting involved, it’s a slippery slope that won’t lead to anything productive. That Forest followed it up with an article by Mark Clattenburg (who they hired as some kind of consultant) in the Daily Mail isn’t great either.

If what we all want is better officiating, better use of the technology, more consistency, and more accountability, then a constructive dialogue is required. I don’t think using something like Twitter is the best way for any football club to do it. Opinions will vary, I’m sure, but I suspect this only ends one way: a big fine for Forest, and the Premier League and PGMOL circling the wagons. Which is no good for anyone.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. We are recording an Arsecast Extra for you this morning, so keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re an Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

Podcast should be out mid-morning. Until then.

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