Danny Peacock December 16, 2019

Ok call me old fashioned but I’ve never really been one for technology in football although I do remember watching a Confederation Cup game some many years ago, I think between Italy or Brazil and USA when a player handled the ball on the goal line and although the Referee didn’t initially award a penalty at the time, because the fourth official saw it on his monitor and was wired up to the Ref he was able to provide him with rapid information to overturn the decision and award the spot kick which I felt at the time was a significant stride in how things would (or should) have gone on to become.

The fourth official that day got disciplined for his actions as it was an era when technology was not supposed to be involved in football, despite the fourth official being right, and thinking on his feet.

Since then we’ve had goal line technology which I think has been a resounding success, and we’ve had VAR, which I think hasn’t.

VAR has been trialled for some years now, it’s been used in World Cup’s and has been used in the top leagues of Germany, Italy, Spain and USA all before here in England… But still from time to time despite video technology being the definitive final answer to solving all of footballs problems (including racism probably) it simply hasn’t been what it’s cracked up to be… But why?

I remember a time playing when a Referee would use his discretion, he would use common sense and although he wouldn’t always get it right you would trust the Ref’s judgement, perhaps have a little moan and then just get on with it.

For example last minute of a game 5-0 down and a striker is bearing down on goal.. Defender rugby tackles him to stop him scoring a sixth and the Ref rightly awards the free kick, under the letter of the law he should send him off but common sense prevails, the attacking team don’t care, the defending team don’t want it, the fans aren’t bothered and the Ref probably can’t be arsed with all the paperwork… Stern lecture says “don’t do it again”… Common sense?

Another one for you… Your’re 3-0 down and the board goes up at 90 minutes to say 6 minutes of stoppage time…. WHY? In Europe Referees still have common sense, they just blow up at 90 and say let’s get showered and home lads… No point in prolonging the obvious. In England they’ll play until 96.02 despite the ball being in the corner flag for half of those six minutes with half of the stadium sodding off early to beat the traffic unwilling to be put through more misery of a painful defeat.

Now days it all has to be so formal and correct… the famous most recent one regarding the intervention of VAR is “if the left armpit is nearer the goal than the second to last defenders toe then he’s offside” or on Saturday’s example…. “The hip” of Sadio Mane.

Casually watching Liverpool v Watford not really too bothered about the game (like 70% of the people watching it on the box) I jumped up off my couch when Sadio Mane scored a bullet header following Shaqiri’s left wing cross. A sublime header and a real good old fashioned piece of wing play sending fifty odd thousand supporters into celebration with a few fantasy football punters fist punching too… Not one defender called foul, just an honest goal where the defender lost his man and the attacker reaped the rewards getting on the end of a fantastic cross.

That was until VAR decided after five minutes of fast forward and rewinding that Mane’s hip was a centimetre closer than the finger of a Watford defender to the goal-line.. The disadvantages of having a huge backside?

I remember the days of if you’re level you’re on… In fact football changed it’s rules in the 90’s to give the attacker the benefit of doubt… So when did they change it back? Why complicate common sense with lines and charts when football is all about margins as you try to gain advantage on your opponent, exact science applied on those fine margins could really kill the game off for good as a spectacle. After all it is not healthy viewing to be sitting with your six pack of beer and bag of potato chips watching some prick draw lines on screens for half an hour to determine something that looks obvious to us all as a goal as something else.

Why so finicky? The actual rule these days is so confusing whereas before in simple terms it would read “a player is offside if they are nearer to the opponents goal line than the second to last defender when the ball is played forward to them by a teammate”… Why change that? That says to me Mane is not nearer, he’s around about the same distance… Give him a bloody goal for god’s sake.

I actually had to stop watching the Liverpool game annoyed by VAR and switched over to Birmingham v West Brom in the Championship which was actually a much better match probably due to the flow and common sense shown by the Referee who wasn’t influenced by making decisions (or not making decisions) based on what a camera might otherwise come up with.

And it’s not the first time I’ve had to switch off Premier League football this season… Norwich v Arsenal earlier this month was a cracking encounter with the Canaries 1-0 up the atmosphere hostile and then VAR intervenes by giving the away side a penalty.. No problem with that… But Aubamayang smashes it, Tim Krul saves it, the whole place goes mad in a sea of celebratory green and yellow before VAR decides that goalkeeper Krul was a centimetre off his line so the penalty had to be re-taken which Aubamayang then scores…

It just feels to me VAR and technology is robbing football of good play and taking away the best bits of football ie the passion the gamesmanship and kidology the controversy is no longer what a player does but how technology interprets it, and because of this before long we’ll all be in half empty modern stadiums like the Emirates quietly applauding 25 successive passes whilst being horrified when a defender has the lunacy to even attempt to make an interception at the thought of perhaps coming in physical contact with an opponent in fear of a video camera judging him to have deeply offended in a day and age where touching is close to being outlawed (not just in football).

“The games gone”, a footballer or two have said to me in recent weeks… I seriously think at Elite Level it has.. Not particularly finished for good because a new breed of tech fancying smart phone holding fan likes the thought of watching soccer whilst downloading films and posting images of themselves at the stadium on Snapchat.. But for me… An old fashioned fan that likes his sport being sporty, played between sportsmen (and women) refereed by no-nonsense sporty officials and watched by passionate sport loving fans that no matter the result will appreciate the sport and sportsmanship in it’s purest format… No more can I enjoy a Premier League game that has been destroyed by VAR and the opinion of ‘technology’… I now refuse to celebrate a goal these days until the three minute check of VAR is well and truly cleared and I see others in time doing the same… Imagine the day where a goal is scored in a packed stadium and nobody actually celebrates it… well thanks to VAR the savior of modern day football we are already not far from that right now.

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