Yes, get rid of VAR! It has squeezed the joy out of the game, writes OLIVER HOLT. Part of football’s beauty is that it can NEVER be perfect

It feels like a lifetime ago now but I was once an enthusiastic proponent of VAR. I thought it would prevent injustice. I thought it would stop the bigger clubs getting more than their fair share of home-town decisions.

I thought it would take pressure off referees and their assistants and reduce the abuse aimed at them. I thought it would stop endless arguments about whether a decision was right and quell absurd accusations about corruption. I thought it would make football even better. I was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

And now, if the proposal to scrap VAR in English football gathers pace and if there is even a sliver of hope that Premier League clubs vote to rid it from the game this summer, I would bid it good riddance without hesitation and put the whole wretched experiment down to experience. Then, I’d look forward to us getting our game back.

In theory, VAR is still a good idea. The figures say it gets more decisions right than wrong. In practice, though, it has been a disaster. For players, for managers, for referees and most of all, for supporters. For all of us.

Part of that is down to the hapless way we have implemented it in this country, the way we have failed to communicate decisions to the fans at the stadium and the failure to come to decisions quickly and correctly. But even if we could fix all that, the VAR debacle has taught us all something valuable about the game that those who opposed its introduction will be quite entitled to say they realised already.

Premier League clubs are set to vote on whether to scrap VAR in England’s top flight

The proposal was put forward by Wolves, with Gary O'Neil unhappy that a number of decisions have gone against his team this season

The proposal was put forward by Wolves, with Gary O’Neil unhappy that a number of decisions have gone against his team this season

Those of us who backed VAR were guilty of wanting football to be perfect. But the car crash it has become taught all of us that part of the beauty of football is that it isn’t perfect and it can never be perfect. It’s about human decisions and if that includes the decisions made by the officials, then so be it.

Nothing is worth the way the game has been stifled. Nothing is worth the way it is having the joy squeezed out of it. We are turning it by degrees into something that has all the spontaneity of a trigonometry test.

The worst thing about it is obvious: it is killing the moment of untrammelled joy that happens when your team score a goal. VAR is killing that moment when you find yourself hugging the stranger next to you, when nothing else matters any more, when you are lost in that instant of exultation when you know something wonderful has happened.

VAR has robbed us of that. VAR has made us check our emotions. It has taught us not to celebrate too soon lest the decision is reversed because of an infringement that escaped the attention of the naked eye but which has been highlighted by replays.

That is the single best moment in a football match and that moment is being steadily erased. And soon our muscle memory will be retrained so that we do not celebrate until we, too, have seen a hundred replays. And the joy will seep away even faster.

It is not as if VAR has ended arguments about decisions, either. If anything, the disputes have become more protracted and more bitter, not helped by some of the dizzying changes to the handball law. Referees are more heavily criticised than ever.

A system that was supposed to make everything transparent has actually added layers of mystery to the decision-making process and encouraged absurd fan paranoia about corruption. The whole thing is a horrible mess.

But here’s a caveat: if VAR is indeed scrapped in the English game — and the odds are still thought to be heavily against that happening — then the fear is that the hatred of VAR will quickly be replaced by hatred of the fallibility of referees making decisions without the aid of technology.

VAR was supposed to help on-field officials, but led to more criticism, including the decision to not give Liverpool a penalty when Jeremy Doku caught Alexis Mac Allister in the chest

VAR was supposed to help on-field officials, but led to more criticism, including the decision to not give Liverpool a penalty when Jeremy Doku caught Alexis Mac Allister in the chest

What happens when we go back to a situation where we, as television viewers, have more tools at our disposal to judge whether a decision is right or wrong than a referee has? What happens when a referee misses a blatant handball and there is no recourse for him to be sent to the monitor?

What happens when Erling Haaland, for example, is five yards offside in a critical match and the linesman misses it and Haaland scores and it’s the winner? What happens if it’s your side who lose the game because of that human mistake? Are you still going to give thanks for the absence of VAR? 

For a lot of us, the answer to that is ‘yes’. Because VAR has taught us that the goal of football without controversial decisions is unattainable. It is not worth the effort because we lose way too much in the pursuit of that kind of perfection. We lose the essence of football in that pursuit.

Maybe this is a fanciful notion, but I would like to think that the experience of how VAR has changed the game for the worse would make us more accepting of human error if the Premier League does the right thing and rids the game of VAR.

When you have glimpsed how bad the alternative is, when you have seen what it has done to the game and how it continues to twist it out of shape, it makes the heart grow fonder of the original.

Now that fans have been given a hint of hope, English football may be about to feel the force of its very own abolitionist movement.

Source From: Premier League News, Fixtures and Results | Mail Online

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