Video Assistant Referee (VAR), was heralded in as a new change that would transform the way we perceive football. With much fanfare, VAR was welcomed in one of the most competitive leagues in the world, Premier League. But, in just a few months, VAR has managed to do something that was pretty much unprecedented; ruin football!
On Saturday, VAR reared its ugly head once again, this time in two high-profile matches. The fixture between Chelsea - Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City - Manchester City, were host to two of the most controversial VAR decisions in the Premier League in recent times. In the Chelsea match, Tottenham player Giovanni lo Celso escaped what would have been a sure-shot red card anywhere else in the world.
Lo Celso’s brutal ‘leg-breaking’ tackle on Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta went unpunished even after being reviewed by the Video Assistant Referee. When on-field referee Michael Oliver refused to show the Tottenham player with a card, VAR referee, David Coote, deemed the tackle to be worth only a yellow card. After the match, BT Sports pundit, Jake Humphrey, confirmed that they had spoken to those in charge at Stockley Park and that Coote had held up his hands and admitted to taking the wrong decision.
Chelsea boss, Frank Lampard, had a few words to speak on the incident. He said, “I hate to call for red cards but that is a leg-breaker. I am not saying about referees on the spot. VAR is here to clear things up and it is not good enough."
In Leicester City’s encounter with defending champions, Manchester City, there was clear disappointment amongst Leicester’s fans and players after they were not awarded a penalty when a free-kick struck Kevin de Bruyne’s hands inside the Man City box. It was clear that the ball had struck De Bruyne’s hand in the penalty box, but no check was done on the aforementioned incident.
Leicester manager, Brendan Rogers, said, “We're disappointed we didn't get a penalty - it's so clear. I felt it was the reason VAR was brought in. It was going towards the goal, the corner, and Kevin de Bruyne stops it. He's lifted his arms up. If you look at the reaction of the other players in the wall, their hands were down. It's handball."
The fans were enraged by these incidents and went on to bash the technology on Twitter.
Although the technology in itself may not be at fault, the people behind it are. And without proper training, they’ve managed to spoil the game within a few strokes. Whether we want it or not, VAR is here to stay. To prevent it from becoming a necessary evil, proper training must take place before the referees are placed behind the technology.