Football and the VAR problem

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  • After the long break due to the Coronavirus pandemic, football has returned and it has returned with an absolute bang!

    Some of the top European leagues returned in May, with the Premier League restarting in June. Even without fans, hopes were high that the teams could provide plenty of fireworks.

    Whilst the football has been sparkling and very entertaining, VAR is still at the forefront of plenty of controversies. The handball rule and the offside rule are costing teams valuable points, which could cost them their Premier League status or a shot at qualifying for Europe or winning the title.

    Not only that, but shocking decisions could also cost people money who may have taken part in online sports betting.

    The ineptitude of the Premier League to not get this issue resolved is really concerning. The handball rule is decidedly murky. Penalties were being given at will at the beginning of this campaign due to the ball accidentally hitting players’ hands. That is not what the rule is about.

    Offsides are still a huge problem in the VAR era. Assistant referees have been told to keep their flags down and if a player is offside, VAR will be in control of that decision.

    Sadly, another faux pas occurred in the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool recently. Sadio Mane, adjudged to be offside, laid the ball to Jordan Henderson to score what everybody thought was a priceless winner for Liverpool against their old foes.

    Instead, the man in the VAR studio looked at the evidence (or lack of) and decided Mane was offside by a whisker.

    Looking at the picture so many times, there is no way you can conclude that the Senegalese maestro was indeed in an offside position. Another flashpoint during that game was the horrific tackle by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford on Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

    The challenge was as close to common assault as you will ever see on the football pitch and left Van Dijk with a ruptured ACL, forcing him to miss eight months of football.

    What was the reason Liverpool weren’t awarded a penalty and Pickford didn’t get sent off? Van Dijk was fractionally offside and the ball had already gone dead, meaning that Pickford was let off the hook.

    How can Pickford be allowed to continue to play over this? Surely the VAR official could have intervened and said in this instance, Pickford needs to serve his punishment.

    What all these ridiculous mistakes by VAR are leading to is vehement discussions about the usefulness of this piece of video equipment.

    It is supposed to be eradicating the obvious error and instead it is making things worse. It seems as if the official in the VAR box is taking a gamble and were choosing red or black on roulette at a virtual casino.

    This needs to be rectified immediately. It is causing confusion and consternation amongst everyone, from managers and players to supporters and even, referees!

    What will happen is teams will be on the wrong end of decisions and ultimately, it could cost a football club a place in the Premier League, losing them millions of pounds.

    If a club does suffer from a VAR blunder and it relegated because of it, expect legal action to potentially come up and set a precedent for the future.

    This is why VAR needs to be fixed NOW! It needs to produce the fairest and most accurate rulings, like Hawkeye does in tennis and cricket.

    Once this has been addressed, only then can football be played on an equal footing.