Video Assistant Refereeing was introduced to the English Premier League for the 2019/20 season. Since then, the technology's use has caused constant disruption to the game and has created more problems than it has solved. Players, managers and fans alike have all voiced their frustration with VAR but as of yet, nothing has been done to attempt to improve the situation.
It is time for the voices of the beautiful game's stakeholders to be heard by those with the power to change and reform VAR. Most people are of the opinion that the use of VAR is necessary in order for the game to progress with the times, however, in its current form it is doing more harm than good. For this reason, a Reform of VAR is required and we suggest the following points from which such a reform could stem;
Referees are no longer accountable for the decisions they make. Regardless of how poor a performance they may have, there does not appear to be any consequences. A referee can make an incorrect decision which can change the outcome of a match and yet there is no consequences as a result. Is there any other profession where an employee can consistently underperform and face no consequences? The on-field referee should not rely on VAR to 'save' them every time. The same can be said for linesmen who are now told to keep their flag down and let play run. This occurs regardless of how obvious the offside is. This begs the question of whether there is a need for a linesman at all? It seems a serious injury may need to occur in the interim period before a linesman flags for this rule to change.
Countless times since its inception, VAR officials appear to have made different decisions on what were very similar events. VAR appears to interpret the laws differently from game to game, there is no consistency and this is severely damaging the game. VAR needs to have consistency with their decisions or risk fans falling out of love with the game. If decisions are consistent across the board, regardless of which team or player is in question, there will be no complaints.
VAR has created confusion like no other. Often, players and fans are left completely in the dark as to what is being checked by the VAR. The reasoning and rationale of how and why a decision is made is reserved exclusively for the referee and the VAR official. Transparency would go a long way to improving VAR.
Suggestions offered -
1) Introduce transparency to the game by allowing fans to hear the discussions between the on-field referee and the VAR official. Similar to what is currently done in rugby, fans should be permitted to hear the decision making process and the reasoning behind it. Unless the VAR has something to hide, why wouldn't they permit this to happen?
2) Introduction of time limits in VAR decisions. In order to reduce the time used for VAR decisions, a time limit of perhaps 60 seconds should be introduced. If a qualified referee viewing an incident in slow motion from as many angles as he requires, cannot make a decision within 60 seconds, then it cannot be a 'clear and obvious' error as is required so the on-field referee's decision should stand.
3) Removal of lines in the review of offside decisions. 'Advantage to the attacker' is dead. The different lines used in offside review decisions should be removed. If the human eye can't make a call on it, it should not be offside. Prior to VAR, the on-field linesman was expected to make a decision after one viewing in real time, therefore, a qualified referee viewing the incident in freezeframe format as many times as they require, should not require those lines to be used.
The above are only three suggestions and are by no means an exhaustive list of amendments required but they could perhaps form the basis of a successful reform.