Més Que Un Column

So, VAR then. The twenty clubs have sat around at a table and decided we may as well give it a go next season.

I quite like the idea of these meetings they go to. Wouldn’t it be good if like the U.N., every team’s representative wore traditional clothing from the region they’re from? You’d have Manchester’s lads in kagools, a scouser in a North Face jacket, someone from Chelsea in a polo top and for Newcastle, an overweight Geordie sitting there topless with NUFC branded across his chest.

Back on our old site, I wrote an article about VAR back in January. Fair to say I thought it was shit. VAR that is, the article was of award-winning standard.

The World Cup has made me a bit more favourable to it, mainly due to the fact that it rarely diluted any goal celebrations as I feared it would, whilst also showing the world that referees award about 30% of the penalties they should. But despite all the logical reasons for introducing it to the Premier League, I still can’t get behind the idea as much as any other rational thinker would.

You can’t debate that it doesn’t make the game fairer. It is impossible for the game to be made less fair by its implementation. From what I’ve seen, it’s also been quite successful abroad, while still attracting a certain amount of disdain from German and Spanish football fans who’ve had it trialled in their national leagues.

It won’t benefit any one team more than the next, nor shall it turn a title challenger into mid-table fodder. Even without VAR, the league table very rarely lies. Mistakes and unjust decisions even themselves out over the course of a season, and often over the course of a game, prior to what Mark Hughes and Roy Hodgson will have you think.

What it does do is make the distribution of points less random. Rather than getting three points when you deserved none one week, and a loss when you deserved a win the next, the correct result will win out more often than not in the VAR era, even if the table experiences little to no significant change.

I can’t help but feel that it’s all a bit tacky though. Just all a bit more NBA than EPL, just a part of a production as opposed to an actual sporting contest.

Perhaps this is because of its novelty. But more than any other sport, it’s imperative that football stays true to its roots.

Football has for so long been the people’s game, the world’s biggest and most accessible sport.

For the sport to continue as it is, it must be relatable. Football, even on the biggest stage, should never be that different from a local Sunday League match. The jump from Sunday League football to the professional game should simply be that it involves being much better at footie, and that the games get watched by several thousand people instead of a man and his dog.

Playing basketball on the streets of Philadelphia is at times like a different sport to that played in the NBA now. Commercial breaks, timeouts, cheerleaders, sponsored replays, t-shirt cannons, loudmouth announcers, dramatic walk-ons, the national anthem and franchises to name a few turn what is a simple game into a large-scale corporate production. The NBA doesn’t struggle as a result of this, mainly due to their target market and American consumer culture, but the same won’t be said of the Premier League if it goes to the new level of modernisation.

VAR isn’t a money-making scheme, nor is it to be added as extra entertainment. Its sole purpose is to make the game fairer. However, it is another step towards modernisation, another step towards professional football becoming a separate sport to that played by billions (yes, billions) across the world.

When discussion after football games has stopped being about lads kicking around a leather thing in the air, then something’s gone wrong.

If the World Cup proved anything, it’s that bringing in VAR won’t rid football analysis of the controversy of referees’ decisions. It will often make their jobs harder, under the increased pressure of having to make a correct call after being given the opportunity to see an incident multiple times. Few decisions are truly clear-cut.

This isn’t even taking into consideration all the flaws that remain with the system. The time taken to reach a decision, the inability to truly celebrate a goal that looked close to offside, the lack of clarity for fans inside the ground and the lack of a visible end to players’ protests around decisions.

Why are we so desperate for every call to be right, when as discussed already, it will level itself out in the grand scheme of things?

Are we now so precious that we can’t take a referee’s decision going against us without falling to our knees screaming calls of injustice to the heavens?

Are our players so important that they should never have to suffer the agony of conceding a last-minute winner that was half a yard offside?

Football is a roller coaster. It’s about losses as much as it’s about wins. It’s about the experience as much as it’s about the result. The feeling of being wronged is as much a part of it as the feeling of being justified.

Calm down. Just because the league has VAR next season, doesn’t mean your team’s going to get three penalties every week.

And yes, I am yer Da.