Friday’s return of the long awaited 2019/20 Premier League season produced no shortage of goals, passion and controversy, with the teams getting used to the newly implemented VAR following two seasons of monitoring in other domestic competitions.
In order to prevent the stadium audience and viewers from having little understanding of the formalities that the referee and back room VAR team take, 18 of the teams (all excluding Liverpool and Manchester United) have promised to make clear on giant screens when there is a clear delay to a match or a referees decision has been raised to VAR. If the VAR team believe there is a definitive video clip which helps explain the overturned decision, this will also be broadcast on the giant screens in attempt to maintain fan excitement and involvement in the stadium.
The question many of us are asking is whether the use of VAR will take away the excitement and subjectivity of the game, will there still be an element of chance involved? Or is the introduction of video analysis ensuring the game is very objective and plain? Saturday’s tie between Manchester City and West Ham saw 7 checks in total, with 2 overturned decisions. Despite a number of decisions going against both teams, the energy of the crowd seemed only boosted when the opposing team had a decision against them – despite both teams suffering a disallowed goal or 2nd penalty given against them. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola spoke in response to VAR in his post match interview, stating his belief that in order to overcome unwanted decisions “you have to be mentally strong when VAR is not on your side”, he later went on to say that the use of VAR will change the dynamic of the game, not just for the team but for the supporters.
Another question being asked of VAR is will it be completely accurate and consistent across all 760 games? Following the conclusion of the Women’s World Cup last month, the PL clearly stated they would take an alternative route when awarding a 2nd penalty for a goalkeeper infringement – after Scotland were thrown out of the WWC despite the spot kick being saved by their keeper against Argentina. A spokesperson for the PL stated they will not be enforcing the rule that a retaken penalty will occur if keepers do not have at least one foot on the goal line when a penalty is taken – however West Ham still suffered at the hands of VAR following a fine save of Aguero’s penalty strike by Lukasz Fabianski at the London Stadium.
Prior to the implementation of VAR, the PL openly stated that they were aiming for ‘minimum interference’ during games, however with 70 individual checks in the opening weekend alone there is an argument that it is being overused just because it is available. Goals and referee decisions that were already clear and obvious were being rechecked whenever the VAR officials deemed necessary, such as all of Manchester United’s second half goals against Chelsea. This could potentially slow down the excitement and flow of the game in situations such as goal scoring opportunities or counter attacks, and instead cause constant delays similar to that experienced in Rugby Union.
All in all, the use of VAR is ensuring fairness and consistency in regards to referee decisions, but arguably at the cost of fan excitement and the pace of the game. Do you think VAR should be used in the Premier League this season?